American engineers who came to help build the new industries often said that the five-year plan was “utterly logical,” but added, “if the people will stand for the sacrifices.”
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 68

For five years I worked in the Urals, helping to build Magnitogorsk.
Scott, John. Behind the Urals Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942, p. viii

At every stage of production the shortage of trained workers was acute. Engineers and technicians were engaged from the United States, Germany, and France. In March 1931 a director of the Supreme Council of National Economy stated that about 5000 foreign specialists were employed in Soviet industry. Hundreds of Soviet engineers and students were trained abroad, especially in the United States, and returned to their country to act as instructors and leaders of industry.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 253

Conditions were reported to be especially bad in the copper mines of the Ural Mountain region, at that time Russia’s most promising mineral-producing area, which had been selected for a lion’s share of the funds available for production. American mining engineers had been engaged by the dozens for use in this area, and hundreds of American foreman had likewise been brought over for instruction purposes in mines and mills. Four or five American mining engineers had been assigned to each of the large copper mines in the Urals, and American metallurgists as well.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 87


The Soviet leaders met what they considered an imminent danger of war by shifting the emphasis of the Five-Year Plan toward building a main center of heavy industry in the Ural Mountains and the Kuznetsk Basin -the practically impregnable part of the coountry.
With the conclusion of the First Five-Year Plan, the Soviet Union plunged into the second, which did three times as much new construction as the First Five-Fear Plan had done and did it with much less strain. Soviet industry was completely reorganized and equipped throughout with the latest machines and methods. Greater emphasis was given than previously to producing goods of consumption. This, together with the rapid improvement of farming, caused a fairly swift rise in the general standard of living.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 70-71


The second Five-Year Plan was completed…. There is nothing with which to compare its development. To judge the incidents of this mightiest of human emancipatory movements by the yardsticks of Western political democracy is a sheer waste of the critical faculty. Stalin and the Bolshevik Party were leading a war which had to be won quickly because war of another kind was already in the offing. In this period Russia was no eldorado. The Socialist Society was not falling as heavenly manna from the skies. It was being won with “sweat, blood, and tears” and the casualties were great. Thousands upon thousands were killed and wounded, frozen to death, starved…. Thousands were court-martialed, shot. The winning of the industrial battle of Magnitogorsk, which gave the Soviet Union her greatest steel-producing plant, made possible the winning of the Battles of Stalingrad, Kharkov, Kiev, and many more, but it was not without casualties. The riveters who froze to death on the top of the great construction, the riggers who fell from swaying scaffolding, the thousands who starved in tents in the Siberian temperatures of 40 below 0, must not be forgotten in assessing the costs of saving the world from Nazi domination. To crowd into ten years whole centuries of human experience would have been impossible without casualties, injustices, and suffering unpardonable judged by the standards of another society enjoying a period of comparatively quiescent development.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 180

Industrial reconstruction means the transfer of resources from the field of production of articles of consumption to the field of production of means of production. Without that, there is not, and cannot be, any serious reconstruction of industry, especially under Soviet conditions. But what does that mean? It means that money is being invested in the construction of new enterprises, that the number of new towns and new consumers is increasing, while, on the other hand, the new enterprises will begin to put out additional masses of commodities only in three or four years’ time. It is obvious that this does not help to overcome the shortage of goods. Does it mean that we have to fold our arms and admit our impotence in the face of the shortage of goods? Of course not. We must take energetic measures to mitigate the shortage. That can be done, and should be done, immediately. For this purpose we must accelerate the expansion of those branches of industry which are directly associated with the development of agriculture: the Stalingrad tractor works, the Rostov agricultural machinery works, the Voronezh seed-sorter works, etc., etc.. Further, we must as far as possible strengthen the branches of industry which can increase the output of deficient goods (cloth, glass, nails, etc.) and so on, and so forth.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 144


Article 123: equal rights for citizens of the USSR, irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social, and political life, shall be irrevocable law.
Constitution of the USSR. Moscow: Co-operative Pub. Society of Foreign Workers in the U.S.S.R., Chapter 10, 1936

Whatever one may say about the lack of personal freedom and individual liberty under his regime–and very much indeed can be said against it–there is no doubt that realization of the principle of racial and national equality inside the Soviet Union is in line with the best traditions of democracy. Stalin was quite right in attributing much of Soviet Russia’s strength to that policy.
Snow, Edgar. The Pattern of Soviet Power, New York: Random House, 1945, p. 162

In 1922 the USSR was created. The name of Stalin is indissolubly bound up with that great historic event. The Constitution of the USSR is, fundamentally, the marvelous set of rules drawn up by the revolutionary minority under Tsarism. It may be summed up as follows. It establishes, or, rather, it proposes: “A close economic and military union, at the same time as the widest possible independence, complete liberty of development of all national culture, systematic destruction of all survivals of national inequality, and powerful aid from the stronger nations for the weaker.”
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 101

Thus national equality in all forms (language, schools, etc.) is an essential element in the solution of the national problem. A state law based on complete democracy in the country is required, prohibiting all national privileges without exception and all kinds of disabilities and restrictions on the rights of national minorities.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 196

Kazakhstan is one of the minority republics of the Soviet Union, and the Communist authorities had passed a law some time before providing that all industries in minority republics should employ at least 50 percent of the native races, both in production and management. This may be a very enlightened law, which appeals to professors and humanitarians in all parts of the world, but didn’t seem to work out in Kazakhstan in 1932….
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 107

I cannot speak with authority about pre-Revolutionary Russia. I do know that since 1928 The Soviet Government has vigorously enforced its [anti-racist] laws making the slightest demonstrations of race prejudice criminal offenses. I saw, during the years I traveled among the Asiatic tribes, that no offense was likely to be punished more swiftly. In fact, the authorities leaned over backward in this respect, and Russians took care not to get involved in a dispute with members of minority races, because they knew that Soviet courts would give them the worst of it.
I am sure that mining and other industries located in minority republics have been held back because the Communists strictly enforce a regulation that native men and women must occupy at least half the jobs in any local industry, and half of the managing jobs as well. This regulation, in my opinion, has been carried to ridiculous extremes. I have come up against incompetent, ignorant, and arrogant native tribesmen holding down executive jobs in mines and mills for which they were entirely unsuited. Their Russian subordinates, who were trying to cover up their mistakes, apparently were afraid to remove them for fear they would be accused of chauvinism, a capital crime in Soviet law.
The same principle is observed in the political field, and large districts have been terrorised or at least retarded in their proper development because the highest political positions have been turned over to illiterate Asiatic tribesmen. Native officials usually have their Russian secretaries, who probably keep control in their own hands. But it requires a lot of patience to deal with these people, especially after they have gotten the idea that they hold the whip-hand, and that Russian underlings will not dare interfere with them.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 256-257

At any rate, the Asiatic regions of Russia with which I have been familiar for many years had been transformed almost beyond recognition during the time I have known them. The change-over from an agricultural to an industrial manner of life has been accomplished in these regions in a remarkably short time. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Asiatics have been pushed into new forms of industrial labor, and a large proportion of those who were illiterate have been taught to read and write, and provided with new alphabets and new books in their own languages where none existed before. So far as possible, the Asiatic tribes have been given schools, hospitals and clinics, libraries, and theaters equal to those in European Russia.
The Communists make a great point of their belief that all races are equal in potential ability, and that one can be as good as another if it has the same opportunities. Holding this belief, they are determined to give the same opportunities to all races and tribes in Russia at the earliest possible moment. They had distributed a disproportionate amount of their available funds for education, public health, and sanitation, in the Asiatic regions where these things had been most neglected.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 259

…The white people in Russia have been remarkably free from prejudice against the colored races for generations, if not centuries. Now all social and legal discriminations against mixed marriages are being rigorously prohibited by law and custom.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 262

Clearly, in no sense can the Asiatic Republics of the USSR be characterized as colonies or neo- colonies of the Slavic areas; they have been rapidly and thoroughly integrated into the USSR while their native languages and cultures have thrived. Their living standards, educational opportunities, and welfare systems have been raised to those of the European USSR. Rather than being exploited by Russia, and their industrialization and all around economic development impeded, their economies have been rapidly industrialized and modernized, largely at the expense of heavy economic subsidies from the European areas. Natives of the Asiatic Republics predominate in the politically responsible positions. The absence of any significant signs of discontent with the Soviet system among Soviet Asians contrasts radically with nationalist and anti-imperialist movements across the Soviet borders in such countries as pre-1979 Iran, and is evidence of the lack of felt national oppression among Soviet Asians.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 68


The industrialization of a great community is by itself obviously not unique…. What is unique in the USSR is that a single decade saw developments which required half a century are more elsewhere. Industrialization was achieved, moreover, without private capital, without foreign investments (save in the form of engineering skills and technical advice), without private property as a spur to individual initiative, without private ownership of any of the means of production, and with no unearned increment or private fortunes accruing to entrepreneurs or lucky investors. Resources were developed, labour was recruited, trained and allocated, capital was saved and invested not through the price mechanism of a competitive market but through a consciously devised and deliberately executed national economic plan, drawn up by quinquennia, by years and by quarters for every segment of the economy, for every region, city, town, and village, for every factory, farm, mine and mill, for every store, bank and school, and even for every hospital, theater and sports club.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 211

The adventure led from the illiteracy to literacy, from the NEP to socialism, from archaic agriculture to collective cultivation, from a rural society to a predominately urban community, from general ignorance of the machine to social mastery of modern technology.
Between the poverty stricken year of 1924, when Lenin died, and the relatively abundant year of 1940, the cultivated area of USSR expanded by 74 percent; grain crops increased 11 percent; coal production was multiplied by 10; steel output by 18; engineering and metal industries by 150; total national income by 10; industrial output by 24; annual capital investment by 57. During the First Five-year Plan, 51 billion rubles were invested; during the Second, 114; and during the Third, 192. Factory and office workers grew from 7,300,000 to 30,800,000 and school and college students from 7,900,000 to 36,600,000. Between 1913 and 1940, oil production increased from nine to 35 million tons; coal from 29 to 164; pig iron from 4 to 15; steel from 4 to 18; machine tools from 1000 to 48,000 units, tractors from 0 to over 500,000; harvestor combines from 0 to 153,500; electrical power output from two billion kWh to 50 billion; and the value of industrial output from 11 billion rubles to more than 100 billion by 1938. If the estimated volume of total industrial production in 1913 be taken as 100, the corresponding indices for 1938 are 93.2 for France; 113.3 for England, 120 United States; 131.6 for Germany, and 908.8 for the Soviet Union.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 212

The Soviet government has never defaulted and on any of its own obligations.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 241

Much interest was aroused in both countries [the USSR and USA] by the 1944 summer journey of Eric Johnston, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who visited the Urals, Siberia, and Kazakhstan and declared that Soviet economic progress since 1928 was “an unexampled achievement in the industrial history of the whole world.”
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 491

Therefore to Stalin belongs the credit for having in the course of a decade lifted the largest country in the world, and the richest in natural resources, from a backward peasant state to an industrial state, and for having at the same time transformed its agriculture by American methods and carried culture, education, science, and, above all, the possibility of obtaining these, literally to every one of its cottages.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 119

The Soviets attained under Stalin’s rule the first place in the world in regard to tractors, machines, and motor trucks; the second as to electric power. Russia, 20 years ago the least mechanized country, has become the foremost…. In the same decade between 1929 in 1939, in which the production of all other countries barely mounted, while even dropping in some, Soviet production was multiplied by 4. The national income mounted between 1913 in 1938 from 21 to 105 billion rubles. The income of the individual citizen was increased by 370% in the last eight years–with only irrelevant income taxes and reasonable social security contributions imposed upon them–while it dropped almost everywhere else in the world.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 129

The arguments of the “left” and right opposition groups that their actions were justified because the Party policy was undermining the state are belied by the economic and social record. Between 1928 and 1934 iron production rose from 3 million to 10 million tons, steel from 4 to 9 million, oil from 11 to 24 million. The figures, though stark and simple, have social as well as economic significance. “We inherited from the past,” Stalin noted in 1935, “a technically backward, impoverished, and ruined country. Ruined by four years of imperialist war, and ruined again by three years of civil war, a country with a semi-literate population, with a low technical level, with isolated industrial islands lost in a sea of dwarf peasant farms.” The figures show that this impoverished and largely feudal country was pulling out of the ruins and establishing the economic foundations of socialism.
In 1933 Stalin could announce that (in the midst of the world capitalist depression) “unemployment has been abolished.” The following year he reported on the developing “new village”:
“The appearance of the countryside has changed even more. The old type of village, with a church in the most prominent place, with the best houses–those of the police officer, the priest, and the kulaks–in the foreground, and the dilapidated huts of the peasants in the background, is beginning to disappear. Its place is being taken by the new type of village, with its public farm buildings, with its clubs, radio, cinemas, schools, libraries, and creches; with its tractors, harvester combines, thrashing machines, and automobiles.”
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 73

In 1939 Stalin reported that the iron and steel industry, which had been virtually non-existent in the early 1920s, had made great strides: “In 1938 we produced about 15 million tons of pig iron; Great Britain produced 7 million tons.” Agriculture had been mechanized. In 1938 there were 483,500 tractors in use and 153,500 harvester combines–in a previously horse and plow countryside. Wages had doubled, from an annual average of 1,513 rubles in 1933 to 3,447 in 1938. Similar advances had been made in education; in a nation of centuries-old mass illiteracy there were now nearly 34 million “students of all grades”; in higher educational institutions there were 600,000 students; in 1938, 31,300 engineers, 10,600 agricultural specialists, and 35,700 teachers graduated. A new “stratum” of professionals had been born:
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 74

When we consider Stalin’s facts and figures, it becomes clear that we are witnessing the most concentrated economic advance ever recorded–greater even than those of the Industrial Revolution. Within 10 years a primarily feudal society had been changed into an industrialized one. And for the first time in history such an advance was due not to capitalism but to socialism.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 75

In 1928 I wrote (It is I, Barbusse, who is speaking now) that: “In the Five-Year Plan now in progress, it was not a question of speculations on figures and words by bureaucrats and literary men, but one of a cut-and-dried programme; the figures of the State Plan should be considered more as accomplished victories than as indications and,” I concluded, “when the Bolsheviks assure us that by 1931 Soviet industry will have increased by 8%, that 7 billion rubles will have been invested in economic revival, that their hydro-electric stations will reach a power of 3,500,000 kilowatts, etc…. we must admit that these things virtually exist already….”
…Now if, at the date indicated, the above figures were not exactly as had been foretold, it was because they were nearly all exceeded.
…If any of the prophesied figures have not been reached, their percentage is absolutely insignificant and negligible. In a great many directions they have been exceeded. The Soviet economic plans were realized to the extent of 109% in 1922-23 and 105% in 1923-25, on all the main heads, to speak only of the earlier Plans.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 142

By the time of the holding of the 17th Party Congress in January 1934, the Soviet people under the glorious leadership of the CPSU headed by Stalin, that resolute opponent of all reactionaries, had made the following unprecedented achievements:
(a) Industrial production in the USSR now accounted for 70% of total production, and the country had been transformed from an agrarian country to an industrial one.
(b) Capitalist elements in the sphere of industry had been completely eliminated and the socialist economic system had become the sole economic system in this sphere.
(c) The kulaks had been eliminated as a class and the socialist economic system had become predominant in the sphere of agriculture.
(d) The collective-farm system had put an end to the poverty and misery of millions of people in the countryside who now enjoyed material conditions hitherto unknown to them.
(e) As a result of the development of socialist industry, unemployment had been abolished, and though the eight-hour day had been retained in certain industries, in the majority of the enterprises a seven-hour day had been instituted; in the case of industries representing special danger to health, the length of the working day was reduced to six hours.
(f) The victory of socialism in all branches of the national economy had put an end to the exploitation of man by man.
No wonder that the 17th Party Congress is known as the Congress of Victors.
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 181

The second five-year plan brought unprecedentedly high rates of industrial growth. In 1934 gross industrial output rose by 19 percent, in 1935 by 23 percent, and in 1936 by 29 percent. The majority of people’s commissars and obkom secretaries in1935-1936 were awarded the Order of Lenin, which at that time was a rare and very high honor. In 1936 no more than two or three hundred persons bore this honor….
After several years of stagnation, agricultural production also began to increase: in 1935 gross industrial output was 20 percent higher than in 1933. Soon after rationing was ended, collective farms were permitted to sell grain on the open market, which stimulated farmers’ interest in his increasing grain production. (The system of grain procurements did not create such a stimulus because of low procurement prices.) Consumer goods prices began to drop. The acute food crisis of the early 30s was apparently over. The standard of living, both urban and rural, rose appreciably. It was at this time that Stalin uttered his famous phrase: “Life has become better, comrades; life has become more joyful.”
Life really did become a bit “more joyful,” and this atmosphere engendered a certain enthusiasm.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 352

It was only in the late 30s that the fruits of the second revolution began to mature. Towards the end of the decade Russia’s industrial power was catching up with Germany’s. Her efficiency and capacity for organization were still incomparably lower. So was the standard of living of her people. But the aggregate output of her mines, basic plants, and factories approached the level which the most efficient and disciplined of all continental nations, assisted by foreign capital, had reached only after three-quarters of a century of intensive industrialization. The other continental nations, to whom only a few years before Russians still looked up, were now left far behind. The Industrial Revolution spread from central and western Russia to the remote wilderness of Soviet Asia. The collectivization of farming, too, began to yield positive results. Towards the end of the decade agriculture had recovered from the terrible slump of the early ’30s; and industry was at last able to supply tractors, harvester-combines, and other implements in great numbers and the farms were achieving a very high degree of mechanization. The outside world was more or less unaware of the great change and the shift in the international balance of power which it implied. Spectacular failures of the first five-year plan induced foreign observers to take a highly skeptical view of the results of the second and the third. The macabre series of ‘purge’ trials suggested economic and political weakness. The elements of weakness were undoubtedly there; and they were even greater than may appear when the scene is viewed in retrospect from the vantage point of the late ’40s. But the elements of strength were also incomparably greater than they were thought to be in the late 30s.
[Footnote]: A detailed description of the achievements of the planned economy can hardly have its place in Stalin’s biography. Only a brief statistical summary can be given here, in which the strength of Russian industry in 1928-29 is compared with that of 1937-38, i.e., towards the end of the second and the beginning of the third five-year plan. In the course of that decade the output of electricity per annum rose from 6 to 40 billion kwh, of coal from 30 to 133 million tons, of oil from 11 to 32 million tons, of steel from 4 to 18 million tons, of motor cars from 1,400 to 211,000. The value of the annual output of machine-tools rose from 3 billion to 33 billion rubles (in ‘stable prices’). (In 1941 the total output of the Soviet machine-building industry was 50 times higher than in 1913). Between 1928 and 1937 the number of workers and employees rose from 11.5 million to 27 million. Before the revolution the number of doctors was 20,000; it was 105,000 in 1937. The number of hospital beds rose from 175,000 to 618,000. In 1914, 8 million people attended schools of all grades; in 1928, 12 million; in 1938, 31.5 million. In 1913, 112,000 people studied at university colleges; in 1939, 620,000. Before the revolution public libraries possessed 640 books for 10,000 inhabitants; in 1939, 8610.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 340

The achievement was remarkable, even if measured only by the yard-stick of Russian national aspirations. On a different scale, it laid the foundation for Russia’s new power just as Cromwell’s Navigation Act had once laid the foundation for British naval supremacy. Those who still view the political fortunes of countries in terms of national ambitions and prestige cannot but accord to Stalin the foremost place among all those rulers who, through the ages, were engaged in building up Russia’s power. Actuated by such motives even many of the Russian White emigres began to hail Stalin as a national hero. But the significance of the second revolution lay not only and not even mainly in what it meant to Russia. To the world it was important as the first truly gigantic experiment in planned economy, the first instance in which a government undertook to plan and regulate the whole economic life of its country and to direct its nationalized industrial resources towards a uniquely rapid multiplication of the nation’s wealth…. What was new in Stalin’s planning was the fact that it was initiated not merely as a wartime expedient, but as the normal pattern of economic life in peace. Hitherto governments had engaged in planning as long as they had needed implements of war. Under Stalin’s five-year plans, too, guns, tanks, and planes were produced in great profusion; but the chief merit of these plans was not that they enabled Russia to arm herself, but that they enabled her to modernize and transform society.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 341

The dam on the Dnieper was built by the firm of Col. Hugh Cooper, a prominent American hydraulic engineer; the majority of the largest Soviet power plants were equipped by the British firm Metropolitan-Vickers; Western companies designed, built, and equipped Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk, the Urals Machinery Works, the Kaganovich Ball Bearing Plant in Moscow, an automobile plant in Nizhny Novgorod, and a truck plant in Yaroslavl, among others. Ordjonikidze, the commissar of heavy industry, was able to state with full justification: “Our factories, our mines, our mills are now equipped with excellent technology that cannot be found in any one country…. How did we get it? We bought the most highly perfected machinery, the very latest technology in the world, from the Americans, Germans, French, and English, and with that we equipped our enterprises.” And he added caustically, “Meanwhile, many of their factories and mines still have machinery dating from the nineteenth century, or the early part of the twentieth.”
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 231

On the eve of World War II the Soviet Union held first place in the world for extraction of manganese ore and production of synthetic rubber. It was the number one oil producer in Europe, number two in the world; the same for gross output of machine tools and tractors. In electric power, steel, cast iron, and aluminum it was the second-largest producer in Europe and the third largest in the world. In coal and cement production it held third place in Europe and fourth place in the world. Altogether the USSR accounted for 10 percent of world industrial production.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 317

There actually were certain grounds for claiming economic successes. In 1935-36, Soviet industry reached tempos of growth in the productivity of labor which were unknown in the previous decade.
Rogovin, Vadim. 1937: Year of Terror. Oak Park, Michigan: Labor Publications, 1998, p. 291

[Report to the 18th Congress on March 10, 1939]
As regards livestock farming, considerable advances have been made during the past few years in this, the most backward branch of agriculture, as well. True, in the number of horses and in sheep breeding we are still below the prerevolutionary level; but as regards cattle and hog breeding we have already passed the prerevolutionary level.
It is obvious that trade in the country could not have so developed without a certain increase in freight traffic. And indeed during the period under review freight traffic increased in all branches of transport, especially rail and air. There was an increase in water-borne freight, too, but with considerable fluctuations, and in 1938, it is to be regretted, there was even a drop in water-borne freight as compared with the previous year.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 359

[Report to the 18th Congress on March 10, 1939]
The abolition of exploitation and the consolidation of the socialist economic system, the absence of unemployment, with its attendant poverty in town and country, the enormous expansion of industry and the steady growth in the number of workers, the increase in the productivity of labor of the workers and collective farmers, the securement of the land to the collective farms in perpetuity, and a vast number of first-class tractors and agricultural machines supplied to the collective farms–all this has created effective conditions for a further rise in the standard of living of the workers and peasants. In its turn, the improvement in the standard of living of the workers and the peasants has naturally led to an improvement in the standard of living of the intelligentsia who represent a considerable force in our country and serve the interests of the workers and the peasants.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 363

At the same time the large capital investments of the first five-year plan resulted in a huge increase in industrial capacity. From approximately August 1933 to the summer or autumn of 1936 industrial and agricultural production grew rapidly, and the standard of living of a large section of the population increased above the very low level of the years of hunger and deprivation.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 10

Beginning in the April-June quarter of 1933 the performance of heavy industry, including the crucial iron and steel and coal industries, considerably improved. According to official statistics, production in December 1933 was 12% greater than in December 1932 and exceeded the low point of January 1933 by as much as 35%. The confidential Annual Report of the British Foreign Office for 1933 stated that “there seems to be a certain justification, in the light of the progress made in the basic industries in the closing months, for the increasing optimism with which the authorities regard the future.”
Another reason for confidence in the economic situation was that the severe restrictions imposed on state expenditure from the end of 1932 succeeded in bringing about financial stability. Currency in circulation declined by 19% between 1 January and 1 July, and did not increase during the rest of the year. And in every quarter of 1933 exports exceeded imports; a deficit of 135 million rubles in 1932 gave way to a surplus of 148 million rubles in 1933.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 188

The year 1934 was the calmest of the 13 years of Soviet history from the “great breakthrough” of 1929 to the German invasion. In this year the economy began to yield some of the fruits of the painful struggle for industrialization in the previous five years. For the first time the production of heavy industry exceeded the plan; and the production of the food industry also increased substantially. Although the harvest was not outstanding, the amount of grain harvested was probably several million tons greater than in 1933. After the disastrous decline in 1929-33, the number of cattle, sheep, and pigs increased for the first time since 1930.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 236

The new policy thus adopted amounted to nothing less than a second agrarian revolution, even greater in magnitude than that of 1917-1918. The innumerable scattered strips and tiny holdings throughout the USSR were to be summarily amalgamated into several hundred thousand large farms, on which agriculture could be effectively mechanized. Only in this way, it was finally concluded, could the aggregate production of foodstuffs be sufficiently increased, within the ensuing decade, to meet the requirements of the growing population; to rescue from inevitable poverty the mass of the peasants unable to produce even enough for their own families; and to build up a grain reserve adequate to provide against the periodic failure of crops, whilst meeting the needs of defense against ever-possible foreign invasion.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 464

When I had left for the Soviet Union, a relative had expressed the hope that the experience would cure my revolutionary illusions. That did not happen. I left the Soviet Union more convinced of communism than when I had arrived. The Party had overcome one formidable obstacle after another and had succeeded in transforming the Soviet Union from a backward, semi-literate peasant country into a modern industrial state with a well-educated population, with equal opportunities for all, regardless of sex or ethnicity. While production was stagnating or receding in the capitalist world, with unprecedented mass unemployment, the Soviet economy was expanding rapidly, with employment and social security for everyone. While the utopian expectations of 1930 had been toned down by the difficulties of the three following years, there was confidence that progress would continue from year to year. You knew what you were working for: a better society….
Certainly there was not universal brotherhood, but there was much more warmth and openness in human relations than in the West;…
Blumenfeld, Hans. Life Begins at 65. Montreal, Canada: Harvest House, c1987, p. 173

But let us begin by providing the reader a picture of the Soviet 1930-ies, as a matter of fact a decisive decade in the history of the Soviet Union. Among other things, it was during the 1930-ies that the first and second five-year plan were realised and the collectivisation of the agriculture took place. The national income, which was 29 million Roubles in 1929, grew to 105 millions 1938. An increase by 360 per cent in ten years, a unique phenomenon in the history of industrialisation! The number of workers and employees increased from 14,5 millions 1930 to 28 millions 1938. The average, annual salary of industrial workers grew from 991 Roubles 1930 to 3,447 Roubles 1938. The grants for cultural and social matters in the state budget increased from approximately 2 billion Roubles 1930 to 35 billions 1938….
During the 1930-ies production in the Soviet Union grew at a rate never before seen in the history of mankind. In the beginning of 1930 the total value of the industrial production was 21 million Roubles. Eight years later the value of the industrial production was above 100 million Roubles. (Both figures counted in the prices of 1926-27). The industrial production of the country had multiplied almost five times in eight years! In the beginning of 1930 the area sown with all kinds of crops was 118 million hectares. 1938 the area was 1369 million hectares. Simultaneously, the country had carried through a total collectivisation of the agriculture and passed through and solved gigantic problems connected with the collectivisation and modernisation of the agriculture. In the beginning of 1930 the number of tractors in the Soviet Union was 34,900. In the year 1938 it was 483,500. The tractors were multiplied almost fourteen times in eight years. During the same period the combine-harvesters increased from 1,700 to 153,500 and the harvesters from 4,300 to 130,800.
Sousa, Mario. The Class Struggle during the Thirties in the Soviet Union, 2001.

On 7 January 1933, Stalin celebrated the completion of the First Five-Year Plan in agriculture and industry in a widely publicized address to the Central Committee. Before the plan, he claimed, the Soviet Union lacked iron and steel, tractor, automobile, machine-tool, chemical, agricultural machinery and aircraft industries; in electrical power, coal and oil production the country had been ‘last on the list’; it had only one coal and metallurgical base, one textile center. All these deficiencies, asserted Stalin, had been rectified in the Five-Year Plan that had been completed in four years. The effect of all this was to create factories that could be quickly switched to defense production, thus transforming the Soviet Union from ‘a weak country, unprepared for defense, to a country mighty in defense, a country prepared for every contingency’. Without this, he added, ‘our position would have been more or less analogous to the present position of China, which has no heavy industry and no war industry of its own and which is being molested by anyone who cares to do so’.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 141


The members of all three segments (collective farmers, urban workers and Soviet technocrats and managers) of the social hierarchy would have gained more (from a short run and shortsighted perspective) if the savings provided for in successive plans had been invested in the production of consumer goods rather than in heavy industry. Such a decision, which would obviously have led to fatal consequences in 1941–1942, might very well have emerged from the free interplay of popular wishes and pressures during the preceding years. It was the task and duty of the party to persuade enforce all strata of the population into accepting and carrying out a program of industrialization rendered imperative by military exigencies and future hopes of plenty.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 583

The ultimate aim of Soviet planning is abundance for the Soviet people, but the only way of reaching that aim was to temporarily sacrifice consumer goods in favor of building heavy industry.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 45

A Communist economist can give a Westerner a good battle over comparative statistics of growth. He always returns, however, to his central point: Whatever Stalin’s failures and whatever Stalin’s exaggerated claims, he won World War II with war material that was plentiful enough and of high enough quality to defeat the German Army, not with inflated statistics. The early Five Year Plans were not proved failures because Stalin produced only 18.3 million tons of steel a year instead of what he had predicted or because he may not even have produced that much; they were proved successes because Stalin won the war….
Again, the essential case for Stalin centers on the war. Had Stalin allocated more investment to the consumer goods industries total production might have been greater, but the number of tanks, heavy guns, airplanes, and machines to produce them, would have been significantly less, and Hitler’s armies might have prevailed. The margin of survival was not very large. If Stalin had opted for more consumer goods, the Soviet people might have been better fed and better clothed as they watched the Nazi troops march through the ruins of better houses….
One can distinguish three possible courses of action that Stalin might have pursued before World War II. There was the extreme and bloody course he did pursue–which did lead to victory over Hitler. There was the opposite course of mild rule coupled with more consumer-oriented economic growth, which was discouragingly likely to have led to defeat at the hands of Hitler. And there was the middle course: a strong coercive buildup of heavy industry and armaments sufficient to stop Hitler, without the foolish methods and self-defeating excesses of brutality that we can retrospectively separate from the core of Stalin’s construction.
Before we succumb to the temptation to approve the middle course, we should remember that there is no sure way of distinguishing between necessary and unnecessary brutality in building an economy until years and often decades later. And if we approve the middle course, we are in effect supporting the undemocratic side of arguments over how to industrialize the backward countries of the world.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press, 1965, p. 180-182


I [Duranty] said to Stalin, “…many Americans say, “Why help build up a country whose avowed aim is to overthrow our Constitution and upset everything which we believe made the greatness of the United States.”
Stalin refused to be drawn out.
“They provide equipment and technical help, don’t they?” he said rather sharply. “And we pay them, don’t we, for everything–pay top prices, too, as you and they know. You might as well say we are arming Americans and helping to maintain their capitalist system against ours.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 238-39

By 1932 Russia was taking 30.5% of German machinery exports. Hundreds of German technicians and engineers were working and instructing in Russia, and German officers were training Russian troops.
The launching of the First Five-year Plan brought further changes in emphasis in Soviet policy. Reporting in July 1930 to the 16th Party Congress, Stalin declared that “our policy is a policy of peace and of strengthening trade relations with all countries.” Trade had been regarded merely as an instrument of foreign policy in attacking the markets and influence of the capitalist powers. Now trade was recognized as essential in obtaining the machinery, technical assistance, and capital for industrialization.
Fundamental to Stalin’s policies, internal and external, was the conviction that war was imminent and might devastate Soviet Russia before she was able to gather strength. It was with this thought that he had demanded immediate collectivization and headlong industrialization. There was no time to lose. The Treaty of Versailles was no more than a truce between two wars. He followed events closely in the last, seeking early signs of the coming conflict.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 295

Stalin’s new policy alignment was reflected strikingly in Soviet foreign trade. In 1932 Germany had supplied 46.5% of Russia’s total imports. By 1935 the figure had dropped to 9%. Britain had displaced Germany, and imports from the United States were increasing. Germany extended massive credits in seeking to recover this vital trade. In 1936 the German share of the Soviet market rose 22.8% but it soon dropped again.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 300

You know that a certain influx of capital into our country from abroad has already begun. There is hardly any reason to doubt that with the continued growth and consolidation of our national economy, this influx will increase in volume….
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 152

I think that the existence of two opposite systems, the capitalist system and the socialist system, does not exclude the possibility of… agreements. I think that such agreements are possible and expedient in conditions of peaceful development. Exports and imports are the most suitable ground for such agreements. We require equipment, raw material (raw cotton for example), semi-manufactures (metals, etc.) while the capitalists require a market for their goods. This provides a basis for agreement. The capitalists require oil, timber, grain products, and we require a market for these goods. Here is another basis for agreement. We require credits, the capitalists require good interest for their credits. Here is still another basis for agreements in the field of credit. It is known that the Soviet organs are most punctual in their payments.
The limits to these agreements? The limits are set by the opposite characters of the two systems between which there is rivalry and conflict. Within the limits permitted by these two systems, but only within these limits, agreement is quite possible. This is proved by the experience of the agreements concluded with Germany, Italy, Japan, etc.
… Finally, it depends upon the terms of the agreement. We can never accept conditions of bondage. We have an agreement with Harriman who is exploiting the manganese mines in Georgia. That agreement extends for 20 years. As you see, not a brief period. We also have an agreement with the Lena Goldfields Co., which is extracting gold in Siberia. That agreement has been signed for 30 years–a still longer period. Finally, we have an agreement with Japan concerning the exploitation of the oil and coal fields in Sakhalin. We would like these agreements to have a more or less solid character. But that depends of course not only upon us, but upon the other parties.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 270-271

At that time [1928], the cooperation between Russia and Germany was very strong; the Russians had hired hundreds of German experts to help them set up their industrial enterprises and were buying all sorts of materials in Germany for new factories and industries and transportation lines. The arrangement worked out very well for both countries, and I am sure many Germans were disappointed–and some Russians too–when Hitler’s rise to power broke up these relations.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 12

I wasn’t at all sure that this Soviet-made automobile would stand up under such a severe test. It was modeled after the first Ford Model A. open cars, and the plant had been installed at the Russian city of Nizhny-Novgorod (later named Gorky) with the permission and assistance of Ford.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 182

Nevertheless the Belgians did buy from us both minerals and wood, for business is business. They bought also butter and tinned fish, both of which we sold cheap.
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited, 1938, p. 254

I signed contracts for the sale to Belgium of asbestos and manganese. Timber exports reached such high figures that I was given an assistant, who worked with the title of Director of the Timber Department.
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited, 1938, p. 256

The full extent of Western economic and technological aid to the Soviet Union will not be known until the Soviet archives are opened up. The Western firms that collaborated with Moscow have concealed the information almost as carefully as their Soviet partners. Nevertheless, the American historian Anthony Sutton has come to the conclusion, on the basis of German and English archives, that 95 percent of Soviet industrial enterprises received Western aid in the form of machines, technology, and direct technical aid.
The Soviet Union made skillful use of the competition among capitalist firms. “In the realm of technical assistance,” wrote Economic Life, “we have neither an English, nor a German, nor an American orientation. We maintain a Soviet orientation…. When we need to modernize our oil, automobile, or tractor industries, we turn to the United States because it is the leading country in these industries. When we speak about chemistry, we approach Germany.”… The capitalist firms, who were competing bitterly with each other, rushed to offer their services: they gained concessions, supplied the latest equipment and technology, sent engineers and technicians, and took on Soviet trainees. The myth about a “blockade,” “economic isolation,” and the hostile attitude of the capitalist “sharks” toward “the socialist homeland” falls apart in the face of the facts.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 213

American and German technology was bought with revenues which accrued from the rise in grain exports. Foreign firms were contracted to establish new plants and help train Soviet personnel.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 265

Stalin made it plain in an instruction to Molotov: “Force up the export of grain to the maximum. This is the core of everything. If we export grain, credits will be forthcoming.’
The state needed to seize grain for export in order to finance the expansion of mining and manufacturing output.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 272


To understand the Five-year Plan and its relation to the USSR today one must grasp the underlying fact that the Communist Party regards itself in a sense as tutor and guardian of the Russian masses, who have not yet reached the stage where they are fit for independent self-government. I say “in a sense,” because from another angle the Communist Party regards itself as the expression of the Russian people and as the representative quintessence of the peoples will…. …it may be assumed that the party is indeed the guardian of the “infant” masses of its fellow countrymen, whom it is training for adult life and citizenship. The form this training takes is the Five-year Plan.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 253


April 8, 1932–It is your correspondent’s opinion–which recent edicts from the Kremlin would indicate is fully shared by Soviet leaders and which certainly is shared by American engineers who have worked in Russia–that one of the principal reasons for the present difficulties, as an American expressed it, is that “labor here is too darn free and too darn talkative.” If other proof were needed, the terrific amount of “floating labor” noticeable here is sufficient. People hear there are better wages, food, or housing at such and such a mine or factory or construction camp, and they chuck their jobs and get there somehow.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 366

The regime found it almost impossible to regulate workers, who were able to skirt laws repeatedly, often with the help and understanding of managers. Shortages of labor, especially of skilled people, compelled industrial executives to accommodate workers whenever possible. Repeated efforts to control the flow of proletarians around the country failed each time.
Workers could influence their environment and take part in decision-making by leaving one job for another, slowing down their work when it was time to set new norms, denouncing managers, or simply by voicing their opinions. Managers, desperate to fulfill their production plans and facing grave danger if they did not, had to listen.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 184

The industrial labor force continued to enjoy its most basic freedom, the ability to move and change jobs, on a broad scale until the war. Curtailment of this right resulted primarily from military needs, not from some fundamental imperative of the regime.
Far from basing its rule on the negative means of coercion, the Soviet state in the late 1930s fostered a limited but positive political role for the populace.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 193

Under the NEP labor policy had been characterized by a high degree of laissez-faire: workers had been free to choose their jobs, even though the scourge of unemployment made that freedom half-illusory; managers had been more or less free to hire and fire their men. But rapid industrialization at once created an acute shortage of labor, and that meant the end of laissez-faire. This was, in Stalin’s words, the ‘end of spontaneity’ on the labor market, the beginning of what, in English-speaking countries, was later called direction of labor. The forms of direction were manifold. Industrial businesses signed contracts with collective farms, by which the latter were obliged to send specified numbers of men and women to factories in the towns. This was the basic method. It is an open question whether the term ‘forced labor’ can fairly be applied to it. Compulsion was used very severely in the initial phase of the process, when members of collective farms, declared redundant and deprived of membership, were placed in a position not unlike that of the unemployed man whom economic necessity drives to hire himself as a factory hand. Once in town, the proletarianized peasant was free to change his job. Stalin aimed at securing by decree the reserve of manpower for industry which in most countries had been created by the chronic and spontaneous flight of impoverished peasants to the towns.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 335


But in spite of everything industrialization made rapid progress.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 168

I have lived through 15 years of incredibly rapid progress which have almost wiped out all memory of the past. To dwellers in the Soviet Union, the pre-war period seems already prehistoric, and even 1921 seems a century ago. We have seen in these 15 years a more than tenfold increase in industrial production; we have seen a leap in farming from the 16th century into the 21st. We have lived through a series of epochs sharply distinct from each other in the regulations affecting our daily existence, but all these periods have been characterized by one continuous fury of energetic endeavor.
Strong, Anna Louise. This Soviet World. New York, N. Y: H. Holt and company, c1936, p. 116

At the Congress of 1929 a speaker submitted from the platform the First Five-Year Plan, and as he indicated on a large map of the Union the places where new power centers were to be erected, small electric lights sprang out one after another. As he touched on the planned foundries, mines, oil wells, textile factories, lights of different colors illustrated each enterprise. With the speaker finally pointed to the glowing map and said softly and as if incidentally, “This is what we’re fighting for,” a storm of enthusiasm swept through the audience. Tears came into the speaker’s eyes.
What must have been Stalin’s emotions when he had the map lit up once more four years later! In every spot where a lamp glowed, there was now real light.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 156

Rapid development of the nation could only come through seizure of natural resources for the benefit of all.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 32

Planning on such a scale is enormously complex, yet it has enabled a country to decide what kind of country it wants to be. In a period of less than a quarter of a century, Russia has Leaped from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth century.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 46

The first five-year plan was a resounding success. Production indexes in mining, steel, and chemicals increased severalfold in four years. Factories and mines materialized everywhere, and the country was proud of the new giant dams, plants, and railroads whose construction contrasted so sharply with the industrial doldrums of the Great Depression in the West. Unemployment disappeared, and although real wages actually fell (another casualty of capital accumulation), education, opportunity, and mobility were available to everyone willing to work. In the lives of the rapidly increasing urban masses, on the factory wall charts of production, and in the rapidly growing network of educational institutions, everything was onward and upward.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 43

Now the real facts are these. The most poverty-stricken state in Europe (in spite of its vast size), ignorant, fettered, ill-treated, starved, bleeding, and shattered, has, in 17 years, become the greatest industrial country in Europe, and the second in the world–and the most civilized of all, in every respect. Such progress, which is unequalled in the history of the world, has been achieved–and this too is unequaled–by the sole resources of the country of which every other country has been the enemy. And it has been achieved by the power of an idea, an idea which was directly opposed to the ideas of the rulers of all other national societies–the idea of fraternal and scientific justice.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 214

Industrial workers were a fast-changing group under Stalin. Between 1926 and 1939, the number of urban dwellers increased by about 29.6 million. Where there had been 14.6 million industrial workers and members of their families in 1913, there were 33.7 million in 1939. The number of workers doubled between 1928 and 1932 alone, and increased from 3,124,000 in the first of those years to 8,290,000 in 1940.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 165


In an August 23, 1929, letter to Molotov Stalin stated, “Meanwhile, there is no greater need for foreign technical assistance than in this complex business…. Why, for example, couldn’t we bring in Austin & Co. or some other firm on a contract basis to build the new plans?….”
Naumov, Lih, and Khlevniuk, Eds. Stalin’s Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1995, p. 172

Stalin’s position had gradually become so strong that he could announce the erection of 60% new collective farms, and then reduce the number to 21%. Following Lenin’s example, he also made other concessions, tolerating at times even an open market where goods could be privately bought at a twentyfold price and a black stock exchange where the dollar bought 40 rubles instead of two.
Though Stalin, in spite of all reverses, refused to take up foreign loans, he was beleaguered by the big banks abroad who recognized that the Russians purchased a tremendous amount of goods and honored their drafts more punctually than democratic Europe. At that time the depression in America stood the Russians in good stead:…. The old states had crisis on crisis, the new socialistic one forged steadily ahead.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 131

In 1924 the general industrial production of Russia was between 10 and 15 percent of the level of 1913. For the next four years the country struggled back to its feet with the help of the New Economic Policy. Foreign concessions and the partial development of private enterprise and industry and commerce facilitated this recovery.
Scott, John. Behind the Urals, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942, p. 62

Foreign concessionaires were growing rich under our eyes from the manufacture in Russia of pencils, pens, cardboard, drawing-pins, pliers, etc.. The biggest of them was an American company run by a Mr. Hammer. The State Mospolygraph Trust began making cheap pencils, but the quality was so bad that they could not compete with Mr. Hammer’s more expensive goods.
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited,1938, p. 219

The State departments continued to prefer the products of private enterprise and foreign concessionaires, even though they were more expensive than ours, for the industrialist offered commissions to the badly paid State servants in return for their orders. This form of corruption was, for several years, a regular scourge, as long indeed, as private enterprise was allowed to compete with the state factories.
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited,1938, p. 220


Farming must be brought out of the Middle Ages, modernized and made efficient. For this two roads of development were possible. The employing peasants, known as kulaks, who already owned the best of the rural means of production, better plows, more horses, occasional threshers, creameries and flour mills, might be allowed to expand, to acquire tractors, combines, and the additional land which these machines could cultivate, dispossessing more and more landless peasants into the ranks of the unemployed. Thus capitalist farming grew in other countries out of the feudal ages. The price of such growth for Soviet Russia under the world conditions of the modern era would be not only continued class war in rural districts, not only swiftly increasing unemployment, not only the steady submergence of all socialist industry by an expanding capitalism, but the complete dependence of this young Russian capitalism on the financial oligarchs of the imperialist world. Such, at least, was the analysis made by Stalin and the Communist Party in adopting in 1928 the now famous Five-Year Plan.
The Five-Year Plan proposed the rapid industrialization of the country, more rapid than any industrialization known in the world before. Heavy industry must first be built, the machines that make machines for other industry and for farming. Lighter industries to raise the standard of living must rapidly follow. Farming must be industrialized, not by strengthening a class of rural capitalists, but by the voluntary uniting of all non-exploiting peasants, beginning with the poorest, into collective groups farming their lands jointly with machinery which the developing state industry would supply. This was necessary to make farming modern, while giving the benefits of its modernization to all farmers. It was necessary to make Russia socialist, or even to preserve the half-socialism which the city workers had begun. It was necessary for the independence of the country and the very existence of the Soviet government. “We could not refrain,” said Stalin, “from whipping up a country which was a hundred years behind and which owing to its backwardness was faced with mortal danger.”
Strong, Anna Louise. This Soviet World. New York, N. Y: H. Holt and company, c1936, p. 125

Trotskyists kept up the pressure. They claimed we devoted too little attention to industrialization, and that we needed to industrialize as rapidly as possible or perish.
We said, no, we will not perish! We will not perish if we don’t fall out with the peasants. But we had to tighten our grip on the kulak. We clamped down on the kulak and the Nepmen;…we squeezed our monies wherever we could–every ruble and kopek–to fund the revival of industry, even if only modestly.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 169

I do not remember the reason, but I happened to remark, “Without industrialization the Soviet Union could not have preserved itself and waged such a war.”
Stalin added, “It was precisely over this that we quarreled with Trotsky and Bukharin.”
Djilas, Milovan. Conversations with Stalin. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, p. 75

However, let us not be unjust toward Stalin! What he wished to accomplish, and even that which he did accomplish, could not be accomplished in any other way. The forces that swept him forward and that he led, with their absolute ideals, could have no other kind of leader but him, given that level of Russian and world relations, nor could they have been served by different methods.
Djilas, Milovan. Conversations with Stalin. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, p. 191

Stalin stated, “Our country had to be transformed from an agricultural country into an industrial country, capable of itself producing everything which it needed. This was the principal point, the foundation of our general line of action.”
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 131

But Lenin had peremptorily specified that: “If we cannot find means of creating industry among us, and of fostering it, that is the end of our country as a civilized country and, a fortiori, as a socialist country.” And Stalin made similar observations about heavy industry.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 132

Once more a conflict began between the logic of the groundlings and the logic of the giants, between the far-sighted idealists with their overwhelming preoccupations about the future and the short-sighted people who carried no burden on their shoulders.
Let us start in a small way and develop gradually, said the latter. In this way you will limit public sacrifice, you will curtail the era of privation and you will facilitate internal peace, instead of hurling yourselves headlong into the system of turning villages into cities and of attacking world records when you do not possess a sufficiency of the necessities of life.
“Your point of view is the wrong one, comrades.”
And logic and patient anticipation of the future, answering through Stalin’s lips, explained: “Yes, one would satisfy a few of the immediate desires of the urban and rural populations by beginning with the light industries. And after that? Only heavy industries can serve as a basis for the industrial revival of the country. Only the development of the heavy industries can make co-operation in the country districts possible, that is to say the achievement of great socialist ideals.”
“Co-operation between the peasant and the worker is essential,” declares Stalin, “but the re-education of the peasant, the destruction of his individualist psychology and the transforming of it into a collectivist mentality, can only be accomplished on the basis of a new technique, of collective labor, of production on a large scale. Either we must carry out this task and then we shall establish ourselves permanently, or we must abandon it, and then the return to Capitalism may become inevitable.”
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 133

Stalin, on the day on which, summarizing things broadly, some years later, he said that the first foundation of the Soviet State was the alliance between worker and peasant and that the second was the union of nationalities, added that the third was the Red Army.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 134

The country had to be forced into a modern industrialized state in half a generation: otherwise it would go under. Whatever else he did, in this he was manifestly right.
Snow, Charles Percy. Variety of Men. New York: Scribner, 1966, p. 254

Stalin really believed that the USSR could become the leading industrial nation of the world, and no man knows if he was wrong.
To Stalin to result was inevitable. The problem was to industrialize fast enough to produce a proletarian majority in the USSR before the capitalist-minded peasants could begin a counter-revolution, and fast enough to support a mechanized army sufficient to repel the inevitable attack from the capitalist West…. In a sense, Stalin started to industrialize 20 years too soon, before the development of the mathematical and other analytic tools of contemporary economics that might have helped him enormously. On the other hand, his own program of industrialization was perhaps the greatest single stimulus to modern developmental economics.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 172

But to Stalin, the crucial phases of the industrial revolution were his. He had started in 1928 with roughly the equivalent of the industrial plant that had failed to withstand Imperial Germany. By 1941 he had built an industrial plant that proved capable of repelling the far more formidable military and economic might of Hitler’s united continental Europe.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 179


Howard K. Smith said from Europe: “Stalin did more to change the world in the first half of this century than any other man who lived in it.” Let that stand as his worldwide epitaph.
He built up Russia to a great power, to the world’s first socialist state…. “He altered the West’s whole attitude to the workingman,” Howard K. Smith noted. For all ideas of government planning, of “New Deal” in the USA and “welfare state” in Britain, arose in competition with Russia’s Five-Year Planning, to keep the 1929 world economic crisis from producing revolution.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 117

No voice today can be final about the Stalin era…. What we know, at least, is that he set out in 1928 to build socialism in one country, a backward peasant land surrounded by a world of foes. When he began, Russia was peasant, illiterate; when he finished, it was the world’s second industrial power. Twice over he thus built it, once before the Hitler invasion and again upon the war’s ruin. That stands to his credit forever; he engineered that job.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 125

Under Stalin more than 82 major towns with more than 100,000 inhabitants, designed by the most able architects of our time, have sprung up in the Soviet Union: and this in the midst of a traditional peasant’s country.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 128

One can say, for instance, that Stalin, more than any other single individual, built the first socialist society and built it on the wreck left by imperialist intervention and civil war. One can also say that Stalin, more than any other single individual, was responsible for ending Nazi imperialism; in doing so, he not only preserved socialism but helped to extend its foundations in Eastern Europe. These are immense accomplishments, accomplishments that place Stalin among the foremost historical figures of our century. They are, moreover, accomplishments in the interest of humanity as a whole and run counter to the plans of world reaction.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 7

Lenin and Stalin did not invent history, but they organized it. They brought the future nearer.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 282

According to Medvedev, it is these accomplishments [under Stalin] that must, in good part, account for the high level of popularity of the Party’s General Secretary, especially among the working people of the USSR. Medvedev concludes:
“It was known that Party and state leaders were being arrested as ‘enemies of the people,’ but at the same time new schools, factories, and palaces of culture were rising everywhere. Military leaders were being arrested as spies, but the Party was building a strong, modern army. Scientists were being arrested as wreckers, but Soviet science had developed rapidly with the Party’s support. Writers were being arrested as Trotskyites and counter-revolutionaries, but some literary works appeared that were real masterpieces. Leaders in the union republics were arrested as nationalists, but the formerly oppressed nationalities were improving their lot, and friendship among the peoples of the USSR was growing. And this obvious progress filled Soviet hearts with pride, engendering confidence in the Party that was organizing it and in the man who stood at the head of the Party.”
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 257

When Stalin looked back on the rise of industry in his cities he was distressed at the many shortcomings, which he made constant attempts to rectify. But he was immensely proud of the total result. An agrarian country was fast becoming half urban. A largely agrarian economy was now overwhelmingly weighted toward industry. The postulated inevitable industrialization of all countries was coming true in his own country under his own guidance. Because of the size and riches of the country, the industrialization process had produced the second largest and mightiest industrial plant in the world.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 202

Irrespective of Stalin’s right to leadership, the next question is, How far has he lived up to his responsibilities? In other words, What has he done for his Party and his country? The list can be made as follows:
1. As Commissar of Nationalities, he played the major role in forming the USSR, which was a far more difficult job than forming the 13 American colonies into the United States, because the Soviet Union was composed of dozens of diverse and formerly hostile peoples with different languages, cultures, and religions.
2. He created a Russian heavy industry free from foreign control and independent of foreign technical personnel.
3. He took the 25 million small peasant holdings–they could hardly be called farms–that were the backward and wasteful agriculture of Russia, and reorganized them into a modern, mechanized system of collective farming.
4. He led his country to victory through the most devastating and disastrous of wars.
Duranty, Walter. Stalin & Co. New York: W. Sloane Associates, 1949, p. 67

Future historians may well declare that Stalin’s greatest achievement, greater even than his conduct of the war to a victorious end, was his conquest of the Russian villages for socialism. It was indeed a long and cruel struggle, almost as costly in human suffering and actual loss of life as a foreign war. Stalin’s contemporaries, whether in Russia or abroad, certainly regarded it as a major struggle and we have his own words in the History of the Party: “This was a profound revolution, a leap from an old qualitative state of society to a new qualitative state, equivalent in its consequences to the Revolution of 1917.”
Duranty, Walter. Stalin & Co. New York: W. Sloane Associates, 1949, p. 72

He [Stalin] achieved a lot: urbanization, military strength, education, and Soviet pride. His USSR could claim impressive achievements. It became a model for radical political movements,and not only communist ones,elsewhere in the world. And at a time before the Second World War when liberal-democratic government signally failed to stand up effectively to fascism, Stalin appeared to have established a plausible alternative . If this had not been the case, he would never have gained the support necessary for him to survive and flourish.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 602

Volodya says, “Stalin continued the work of Lenin, and he was quite successful; we prevented the ruin of the country and its collapse after the civil war. We created industry, we collectivized the peasants, and to this day there is no desire among the peasants to leave the kolkhozes. We won the war, even though it was very, very tough. Hitler was armed for imperialism and the fact that our country managed to defeat him was to Stalin’s huge merit. The economy of the country was restored, atomic weaponry was created which has maintained peace for all these years. At the tail end of this the first Sputnik was launched into space, space rockets were built: and alll this is due to the activity of one person….
Stalin was a great man who had both a good side and a bad side, like everyone. What he did in our country was huge, his merits are enormous and he is not guilty of everything that happened in this country. All serious politicians say this. He was a great, great organizer. Even Churchill elevated Stalin very highly.
A gigantic task was accomplished in changing the face of this country: the second great world power emerged after his term in office–you cannot deny this fact! That power was so international in its essence that we did not know any “ethnic fights”, so we were brought up knowing nothing of our “nationalist roots”; we could not care less. The ethnic fights are purely the result of present-day policies.”
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 279

During the years of Stalin’s reign, the Soviet nation made dramatic gains in literacy, industrial wages, health care, and women’s rights. These accomplishments usually go unmentioned when the Stalinist era is discussed. To say that “socialism doesn’t work” is to overlook the fact that it did. In Eastern Europe, Russia, China, Mongolia, North Korea, and Cuba, revolutionary communism created a life for the mass of people that was far better than the wretched existence they had endured under feudal lords, military bosses, foreign colonizers, and Western capitalists. The end result was a dramatic improvement in living conditions for hundreds of millions of people on a scale never before or since witnessed in history.
State Socialism transformed desperately poor countries into modernized societies in which everyone had enough food, clothing, and shelter; where elderly people had secure pensions; and where all children (and many adults) went to school and no one was denied medical attention….
Parenti, Michael. Blackshirts and Reds, San Francisco: City Light Books, 1997, p. 84

Furet sees communism is a kind of flash in the pan of modern history. When the illusion passed, he writes, it left virtually no traces and no enduring legacy. This is preposterous….
Labor reform in the West in the past century came about under the threat of a radicalized international labor movement, protected and supported by the USSR. President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was in part meant to steal the thunder of radicals who looked to Moscow and therefore could not be ignored. Social goals that are commonplace today, including women’s rights and racial integration, were planks of the Communist Party platform long before mainstream American parties took them seriously. It was Communists who first went to the American South and began organizing African-Americans and poor whites around issues of social justice. The more politically acceptable young people who followed them in the sixties are heroes today. On the international scene the Soviet Union provided support for Nelson Mandela and other reformers. Communism made life difficult for Western establishments, and it is doubtful that reforms would have come when they did if the USSR had not existed. Communists always rejected reform in favor of revolution. Ironically, however, the existence of the Soviet Union helped the capitalist West reform itself and avoid the bloody revolutions of the East. Twentieth-century communism was no passing illusion; its legacies are everywhere.
The Future Did Not Work by J. Arch Getty, Book Review of The Passing of an Illusion by Franois Furet [March 2000 Atlantic Monthly]


My old friend, Owen Young, Chairman of the Board of General Electric Co.,…tells me that the Soviet government has an exceptionally high credit rating in banking and business circles in New York and this country; that they have the reputation of being meticulously careful to meet their financial obligations promptly and even before the due date. In the course of business relations which the General electric has had with the Soviet government, running into millions of dollars, and covering 10 or 15 years, he stated that the Soviets have been scrupulously prompt in their payments and had lived up to their promises in every respect. He gave them a most excellent reputation for living up to their promises, quite in contrast to nonbusiness and politically minded people with whom I have discussed the Soviets here.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 8


While a few thousand foreign technicians assisted in the work, the brunt of the immense task fell on the shoulders of the Soviet peoples. Russia was industrialized with the sweat and blood of the one hundred and sixty-odd million inhabitants of the vast country.
Scott, John. Behind the Urals, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942, p. 257


The Stalinist economic system was one well suited to the war effort. Indeed, the economies of many of the other combatants moved in the direction of greater central coordination and planning, like that associated with the Soviet economic structure created during the 1930s. The centralization of control meant that the economy could quickly move onto a full war footing, particularly since the last years of the 1930s had seen an increasing emphasis placed upon the production of weapons and war material in general. In this sense, the general priority on heavy industry evident in the earlier decade was also useful for the war effort because it facilitated the move to wartime production much more than would have been the case had a focus on light industry and consumer goods production been characteristic of the Soviet development pattern.
Gill, Graeme. Stalinism. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1990, p. 35

…Victory had been very expensive for the USSR; some 20 million Soviet soldiers and civilians were killed or incapacitated during the war. Many towns and cities lay in ruins, with almost half of all urban living space in occupied territory destroyed. Large numbers of factories were left in ruins, while much of the agricultural infrastructure was destroyed. The transport network in the occupied areas had to be almost totally rebuilt. But ultimately, the USSR had triumphed. …the centralization of the economic and political structures enabled the transformation of the economy onto a war footing in a shorter time than would have been possible had the economy worked on a decentralized, market basis. Furthermore while the centralization of political power magnified the effect of any mistakes Stalin made, it also enabled speedy decision-making and similarly magnified the effect of good decisions. Moreover the propaganda apparatus that was developed was also instrumental, particularly in terms of its effect of maintaining popular enthusiasm and commitment. Indeed, the war posed a major test of the Stalinist system, and it had come through that test well.
Gill, Graeme. Stalinism. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1990, p. 42

This new appreciation of Stalin’s role did not spring only from afterthoughts borne in the flush of victory. The truth was that the war could not have been won without the intensive industrialization of Russia, and of her eastern provinces in particular. Nor could it have been won without the collectivization of large numbers of farms. The muzhik of 1930, who had never handled a tractor or any other machine, would have been of little use in modern war. Collectivized farming, with its machine-tractor stations scattered all over the country, had been the peasants’ preparatory school for mechanized warfare. The rapid raising of the average standard of education had also enabled the Red Army to draw on a considerable reserve of intelligent officers and men. ‘We are 50 or 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in 10 years. Either we do it, or they crush us’–so Stalin had spoken exactly ten years before Hitler set out to conquer Russia. His words, when they were recalled now, could not but impress people as a prophecy brilliantly fulfilled, as a most timely call to action. And, indeed, a few years delay in the modernization of Russia might have made all the difference between victory and defeat.
Against this we must set the price Russia had paid for victory: the 7 million dead, officially counted–the losses may in fact have been much larger; the uncounted millions of cripples; the devastation of most cities and towns, and of much of the country-side in European Russia; the destruction of industry, exemplified by the total flooding of the coal-mines of the Donetz; the complete homelessness of 25 million people, living in caves, trenches, and mud huts, not to speak of the latent homelessness of many more millions of evacuees in the Urals and beyond. Last but not least, the cost of victory included the utter weariness of a people that had, in the interests of industrialization and rearmament, for many years been denied the most essential necessities of life.
[Footnote]: Incidentally, collectivization had made it easier for the Government to build up stocks of food and raw materials, by which the townspeople were saved from famine, and industry from paralysis, when the country was cut off from its granaries and transport was disrupted.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 550

[In a speech delivered at the First All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry on February 4, 1931 Stalin stated] We are 50 or 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in 10 years. Either we do it, or we shall go under.
Stalin, Joseph. Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1952, Vol. 13, p. 41


Only after we had laid the foundation did we step up the pace of industrialization. Lenin directed our policy in the same way. He used to say that Trotsky held an absurd position–without a czar and under a workers’ government. What kind of revolution was this? To overthrow Czarism and shift immediately to a proletarian revolution? To Lenin that was nonsense and sure to fail. Instead we had to pass through all the stages of the democratic path to arrive at socialist revolution. He proposed that we form a revolutionary democratic government with the participation of the peasantry and only when it no longer moved forward, had exhausted its revolutionary potential, would we move on to proletarian revolution.
Stalin proceeded in just that way. He believed that if you began instant industrialization without preparations, it would fail. Superindustrialization is just babbling. In fact you, the Trotskyist, are not for industrialization because you do not believe in the possibility of alliance with the peasantry. You believe only in the revolutionary potential of the Western worker; but he is in no hurry. You do not believe in the revolutionary potential of our people and so ruch us into risky adventurism, the pernicious policy of superindustrialization.
But when we prepared and got started, they found themselves overtaken by events: you’re doing it the wrong way, making mistakes, you’re pushing too hard. Then right-wingers began to accuse us of following a policy of superindustrialization. Both Trotskyists and right-wingers were of course wrong.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 170

A brief recapitulation of his crucial statements on industrialization reveals equally striking contradictions. In the middle ’20s Russian industry, recovering to its pre-war condition, increased its output by 20 to 30 percent per year. The Politburo argued over the rate at which output could be expanded after all the existing plants and factories had been made to operate at full capacity. Everybody agreed that once this point had been reached, the annual increases would be smaller. Zinoviev, Trotsky, and Kamenev thought that it would still be possible to raise output by somewhat less than 20 percent a year. Stalin dubbed them ‘super-industrializers’. When his opponents advanced the project for the Dnieprostroy, the great hydro-electrical power station on the Dnieper, he shelved it, allegedly saying that for Russia to build the Dnieprostroy would be the same as for a muzhik to buy a gramophone instead of a cow. His report to the 15th Congress, in December 1927, was full of contentment with the industrial condition of the country; but he already took a leaf from the opposition’s book–and suggested that in the next few years industrial output should be increased at the annual rate of 15 percent.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 320

Trotsky advocated super-industrialization in the manner of the Five-Year plan as far back as 1921, and he wanted to expel the kulaks (rich farmers) in 1925, a task which Stalin did not set himself till almost five years later. But that was the trouble. Trotsky, impulsive, demanded these things prematurely, at the wrong time; Stalin had the strength to wait.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 526


…Stalin was right, saying that we are 50 to a hundred years behind Western Europe, and if we do not close this gap in 5 to 10 years we shall perish.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 201

Thoroughly biased as he is against Stalin, Isaac Deutscher in his biography of Stalin is obliged to make the following admission as to the factors that underlay the Soviet victory in the Second World War:
“The truth was that the war could not have been won without the intensive industrialization of Russia, and of her eastern provinces in particular. Nor could it have been won without the collectivization of large numbers of farms. The muzhik of 1930, who had never handled a tractor or any other machine, would have been of little use in modern war. Collectivized farming, with its machine-tractor stations scattered all over the country, had been the peasants’ preparatory school for mechanized warfare. The rapid raising of the average standard of education had also enabled the Red Army to draw on a considerable reserve of intelligent officers and men. ‘We are 50 or 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in 10 years. Either we do it, or they crush us’–so Stalin had spoken exactly 10 years before Hitler set out to conquer Russia. His words, when they were recalled now, could not but impress people as a prophecy brilliantly fulfilled, as a most timely call to action. And, indeed, a few years delay in the modernization of Russia might have made all the difference between victory and defeat.” (Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography, London, Pelican, 1966, page 535).
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 496

The climax of the celebrations came on June 24, when the great Victory Parade took place in the Red Square…. Standing on the Lenin Mausoleum, Stalin appeared as a small remote figure, but, as hundreds of German regimental banners were flung down on the steps of the mausoleum and at his feet, he dominated the scene.
It was in a real sense his victory. It could not have been won without his industrialization campaign and especially the intensive development of industry beyond the Volga. Collectivization had contributed to the victory by enabling the government to stockpile food and raw materials and to prevent paralysis in industry and famine in the towns. But also collectivization, with its machine-tractor stations, had given the peasants their first training in the use of tractors and other machines. Collectivized farming had been “the peasants preparatory school for mechanized warfare.” The raising of the general standard of education had also contributed by providing a vast reserve of educated men who could readily be trained.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 419

I decided to take advantage of this opportunity for a heart-to-heart talk with Klim Voroshilov about everything that was going on. He told me frankly that he disapproved of many things, but there was now no other way: either we can build up our heavy industries and our armament industry within some ten years–that is before Germany has had time to re-arm and the inevitable world war breaks out– or, as a backward farming country, we should fall victim to that war…. I felt that Koba had won him to his side and that henceforth he would back him to the end, whatever happened.
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 133

In political theory, Tsarist Russia was a great power. In economic fact, its development lagged more than 100 years behind that of Britain and at least 75 years behind Germany.
Nearing, S. The Soviet Union as a World Power. New York: Island Workshop Press, 1945, p. 8

At once he [Stalin] started… the greatest of all industrial revolutions. “Socialism in one country” had to work. Russia had to do in a decade something like what England had done in 200 years. It was going to mean that everything went into heavy industry. The primitive accumulation of capital wouldn’t leave much more than subsistence for the workers. It was going to mean an effort such as no country had ever made. Yet in this he was dead right. Even now, in the 1960s, one can see traces of the primitive darkness from which the country had to be yanked — side by side with technology as advanced as any in the world. Stalin’s realism was harsh and unillusioned. He said, after the first two years of industrialization, when people were pleading with him to go slower because the country couldn’t stand it:
“To slacken the pace would mean to lag behind: and those who lag behind are beaten. We did not want to be beaten. No, we don’t want to be…. [Old Russia]…was ceaselessly beaten for her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol khans. She was beaten by the Turkish beys, she was beaten by the Swedish feudal lords, she was beaten by Polish-Lithuanian pans, she was beaten by Anglo-French capitalists, she was beaten by Japanese barons, she was beaten by all–for backwardness. For military backwardness, for cultural backwardness, for political backwardness, for industrial backwardness, for agricultural backwardness. She was beaten because to beat her was profitable and went unpunished. You remember the words of the prerevolutionary poet: ‘Thou art poor and thou art plentiful, thou art mighty and thou art helpless, Mother Russia.’
We are 50 or 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must make good the lag in 10 years. Either we do it or they crush us.”
At this date, no person of moderate detachment could disagree.
Snow, Charles Percy. Variety of Men. New York: Scribner, 1966, p. 257


And now for the financing of all this. The problem presents itself here in a peculiar form of its own. “Substantially,” explains Stalin, “in capitalist countries the funds invested in big industrial schemes are obtained either by foreign loans, or by spoiliation.” (War indemnities, colonial confiscations, unfair exploitation of labor.)
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 199


Now the 1928 Five-Year Plan, supported by colossal figures, ended in four years by an achievement of 93 percent of its objectives. As regards heavy industry, the achievement in four years amounted to 108 percent. National production trebled between 1928 and 1934. Pre-war production was quadrupled by the end of 1933.
From 1928 to 1932 the number of workmen employed increased from 9,500,000 to 13,800,000 (an increase in important industries of 1,800,000, in agriculture of 1,100,000, and in commercial employees of 450,000) and, naturally, unemployment has become a thing of the past there.
The part played by industry in total production, that is to say in relation to agricultural production, was 42 percent in 1913, 48 percent in 1928, and 70 percent in 1932.
The part played by the socialist industry in total industry at the end of four years was 99.93%.
The national revenue has increased during the four years by 85 percent. At the end of the Plan, it was more than 45 billion rubles. A year later 49 billion (1/2% being capitalist and foreign elements).
The amount of the workers’ and employees’ wages rose from 8 billion to 30 billion rubles.
The number of persons able to read and to write has risen, for the whole of the USSR, from 67 percent at the end of 1930, to 90 percent at the end of 1933.
Pause a moment and compare these figures, which testify to a progress unique in the annals of the human race, with the virtuous prophecies which figure above–Insolvency, Deadlock, Catastrophe, Breakdown–all of which were uttered at a time when the Plan was almost realized already–in spite of universal opposition.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 194-195

Listen to the great newspapers. They have a bitter pill to swallow.
Le Temps in its number of January 27th, 1932, says: “The Soviet Union has won the first round by industrializing itself without the aid of foreign capital.” The same paper, some months later, in April, observes: “Communism seems to have leaped in one bound over the constructive stage which in a capitalist regime has to be crossed very slowly. To all intents and purposes, the Bolsheviks have beaten us in this respect.”
The Round Table: “The achievements of the Five-Year Plan constitute a surprising phenomenon.”
The Financial Times: “There can be no doubt about their success. The Communists’ exultation in the Press and in their speeches is by no means without foundation.”
The Neue Freie Presse ( Austria): “The Five-Year Plan is a modern giant.”
The Nation ( United States): “The four years of the Five-Year Plan show a really remarkable series of achievements. The Soviet Union has devoted itself with an intense activity, more appropriate to war-time, to the construction of the foundations of a new life.”
Forward ( Scotland): “What England did during the war was a mere bagatelle beside it. The Americans recognize that even the feverish period of the most intense construction in the Western states could offer nothing comparable to it…a degree of energy unprecedented in the history of the world. A brilliant challenge to a hostile capitalist world.”
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 215-216

I [Medvedev] am not about to deny the major successes achieved by the Soviet Union during the first five-year plan. In the period from 1928 to 1933 alone, 1500 big enterprises were built and the foundations were laid for branches of industry that had not existed in tsarist Russia: machine-tool production, automobile and tractor manufacturing, chemical works, airplane factories, the production of powerful turbines and generators, a high-grade steel, of ferrous alloys, of synthetic rubber, artificial fibers, nitrogen, and so on. Construction was begun on thousands of kilometers of new railroads and canals. Major centers of heavy industry were created in the territories of the non-Russian minorities, the former borderlands of tsarist Russia–in Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Tataria, the Northern Caucasus, and Buryat Mongolia. The eastern part of the country became a second major center for metallurgy and the oil industry. A modern defense industry was established. And hundreds of new cities and workers settlements were founded. Stalin put considerable effort into the huge task of building a modern industry in the Soviet Union.”
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 248

In January 1933 Stalin reported that the first five-year plan had been fulfilled in four years and three months, that industrial output in 1932 had reached the goals set for 1933…. In fact, over the five-year period gross industrial output approximately doubled and heavy industry increased by 2.7 times….
Ten million tons of pig iron were planned for the last year of the five-year plan, and in 1930 Stalin declared this goal raised to 17 million tons. In 1932, 6.16 million tons were poured. On the eve of the war, in 1940, 15 million tons of pig iron were poured. Only in 1950 did the figure past 17 million….
The transfer to the cities of millions of peasants, most of them poor, was accompanied by an improvement in their standard of living. And of course the material position of the former unemployed was improved; now they all had work….
It goes without saying that the difficulties in fulfilling the first five-year plan can be explained in part by the fact that it was the first five-year plan in history.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 250-253

There is no need to discuss the success or failure of the Five Years Industrial Plan. Certain facts are self-evident. The Government is undoubtedly building as fast as it can, in the face of immense financial, economic, and physical difficulties, model factories for the people to work in and model houses for them to live in. It is improving conditions of work and prolonging the intervals of leisure. It is building better civil prisons and reforming prison life on modern lines. It is beginning to establish maternity centers, and clinics for the care of child life.
It is organizing sanatoriums for the sick and convalescent homes for jaded workers who have done good service to the State. Within its own limited definition of what constitutes the arts it is actively encouraging them.
It is building schools and universities and is rapidly reducing the number of illiterates. The next generation of Russians will not be classed among the illiterates of the world;…
Among other things the State has done is to make idleness a crime and the idle rich recognized by proletarian opinion not only as useless drones but as enemies to the hive-economy. It has practically abolished prostitution.
There is not a prostitute left in the streets of Moscow; any woman found soliciting would be reported by the police to her factory boss and threatened with the loss of her job and her union card. Formal religion has been “eliminated” as an opium of the mind employed to deaden the sensitiveness of wage-slaves to the miseries of capitalist oppression.
Cummings, Arthur. The Moscow Trial (Metro-Vickers). London: Victor Gollancz, 1933, p. 280

…he [a worker named Saifuddinov] reminded me that we had just completed the First Five-Year Plan and were now on our way at full speed towards a happy, joyful life; we were creating mammoth industrial plants, we were setting up tractor stations in collective farms, we were increasing productivity, we were growing, we were flourishing–whereas in the countries of capitalism everything was going quickly downhill, the workers were starving and subjected to arbitrary rule.
“Comrade Saifuddinov,” I remember asking him during a class, “will you please take yourself as an example to illustrate the improvement in the material and domestic conditions of the working class of the USSR.”
“What is the point of taking an individual example, Comrade Instructor,” he replied at once. “I was speaking of the improvement of conditions all around, as a whole. Like that, there is a steady improvement. Individual cases have nothing to do with it.”
“All the same,” I asked, “has your personal position improved?”
“Of course it is improving! Are we not building an underground railway in Moscow? Are we not building the Moscow Volga Canal? Of course we are, and we are building up Socialism, aren’t we?”
Tokaev, Grigori. Betrayal of an Ideal. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 230

Food supplies improved so much by early 1935 that most of the rationing decreed in the late 1920s was abolished. The tone of the press and of the leaders’ speeches became considerably milder.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 2

That great changes have been brought about in the Soviet Union as a result of the Five Year Plans is admitted by a friend and foe alike. Everyone acknowledges that the Soviet Union is now in possession of scores of important industries which it did not previously possess, that a mighty technical revolution has taken place in agriculture.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 83

The enormous assignment for fundamental construction in the first plan (Five-year Plan), now largely gave way to the provision of goods of consumption. This could only be done when the main plant had been laid down; but once it was there, set going with all the force and purpose of a socialist state, the actual goods came out at a tremendous pace. In 1931 there were hardly any cars; by 1935 I found the streets covered with them.
Pares, Bernard. Russia. Washington, New York: Infantry Journal, Penguin books, 1944, p. 156

No one can deny that these achievements have been tremendous. No other country has made similar progress in developing its productive forces in so short a period. In speed of development Russia is far ahead of all capitalist countries. Compared with 1913 there has been a 10-fold increase in Russia’s heavy industrial production, while in the same period German production, for example, has advanced by only 50 percent. And, in contrast with all capitalist countries, the rate of Russian advance has been almost uninterrupted. This fact becomes even more impressive if one remembers that Russia, during this period, went through the world war, civil war, and two periods of actual famine. As early as 1937 80% of all industrial products and 90% of all agricultural machines such as tractors and combines came from factories which had been newly built or entirely reconstructed since the beginning of the First Five-Year Plan.
The progress in agriculture is no less impressive. Collectivization and mechanization have resulted in a vast increase in output, although the agricultural population has been steadily declining in numbers. In 1926 an agricultural population of 120 millions under NEP conditions could produce an extremely good harvest that was worth 14.8 million rubles. Two years ago an agricultural population that was 6 million smaller than a 1926 could produce a good harvest that was worth 3.7 million rubles more.
Without going beyond the framework of this book we cannot do more than merely indicate the tremendous economic progress that has been made; a progress which has also been implemented by a great cultural advance. Illiteracy has practically disappeared. Factories and collective farms have been equipped with up-to-date clubs, libraries, theaters, cinemas, creches, hospitals, and laboratories for the benefit of the working people. All these things have been described in great detail in many books.
Socialist Clarity Group. The U. S. S. R., Its Significance for the West. London: V. Gollancz, 1942, p. 37

On the other hand, even for the whole population, the standard of living is certainly higher than that of the working population under the Tsarist Regime.
In the light of this experience one must come to the conclusion that, in the economic sphere Russia’s achievements by far outweigh the cost and sacrifice they have rendered necessary.
Socialist Clarity Group. The U. S. S. R., Its Significance for the West. London: V. Gollancz, 1942, p. 38

The latest Western estimates of Soviet production in the 1930s still tell a remarkable story: steel output rose from 4.3 million tons in 1928 to 18.1 million a decade later; coal production more than trebled, from 35 million tons to 133 million; truck production, an insignificant 700 at the start of the plans, 182,000 in 1938.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 36


Mr. Cooper, the American technical adviser who was engaged on Dnieprostroy, told me at the inauguration of the titanic dam there that all records and even all calculations had been beaten by the workers, in the most difficult and unexpected circumstances, and that nothing like the economy of labor that took place had ever been seen before. Besides, 20,000 qualified workers sprang fully armed from that enterprise.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 234

The terrible famine of the winter of 1932-33 had been followed by a record harvest in 1933…. The industrialization campaign had achieved outstanding results and had laid the foundations of heavy industry on which the second plan could build.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 258

Yes… we proceeded confidently and vigorously along the road of industrializing and collectivizing our country. And now we may consider that the road has been traversed. Everybody now admits that we have achieved tremendous successes along this road. Everybody now admits that we already have a powerful, first-class industry, a powerful mechanized agriculture, a growing and improving transport system, an organized and excellently equipped Red Army.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 98

In July 1937 the London Times devoted three articles to the situation after 20 years of Soviet Power. Gone are the assertions of the country being a vestige of its former self, of the impending collapse of industry. The new economic machine is obviously beginning to “deliver the goods,” and so the note of criticism is transferred from the economic to the political sphere. Stalin, it is said, is no longer carrying out Lenin’s program but one of his own. The State is not “withering away” as Lenin had proposed that it should, but is actually being strengthened in every possible way. The writer is distinctly reproachful about the refusal of Stalin to allow the State to “wither away.”
This is typical of the general shift of criticism in relation to the Soviet Union. A few years ago the critics, with Trotsky in the van, were shouting that the Soviet Five Year Plan would not produce the expected economic results. Today, when the economic results aimed at have in the main been achieved, they shout in chorus: “But it is not yet Socialism. There is no equality of income. The State has not yet disappeared, etc.”
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 128

[It was new year’s, 1937] In commissariats and party bureaus the finishing touches were being put to the annual report. And there was something to report. During the last year, the Kharkov Machine-Building Plant had been commissioned, the Kama Cellulose Combine had been ceremonially opened, building had started on the Solikamsk magnesium factory, the Konakar hydroelectric station in Armenia had started up, the Murmansk Fish Combine had started working, alongside hundreds of other enterprises of all sizes. All this was impressive, in quantity, if not in quality. Even the defense industry commissariat, which had only been formed in 1936 and had not fulfilled its plan on a number of lines, sent in a report which began, ‘The defense industry will be the best in the country’. Stalin was pleased with the reports he got from commissars Kaganovich, Mikoyan and Lyubimov: rail transport, light and local industry and trade were at last yielding a small surplus.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 275

Nevertheless, in an unusually short time gigantic industrial projects were completed in the Urals, the Kuznetsk basin, the Volga region, and Ukraine. Factories were built in Moscow Leningrad, textile mills in Central Asia, and so on. The Turkestan-Siberia Railway, built before the revolution, was extended and a branch added to Karaganda. In all, 5,500 kilometers of rail were laid.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 230

These included Roy Medvedev the first Soviet historian who, 20 years ago, had the courage to break the conspiracy of silence about Stalin, gives a figure of approximately 1500 big enterprises built, the largest power station in Europe, on the Dnieper; the Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk metallurgical complexes; the Ural machine factory and chemical works; the Rostov agricultural machinery plant; tractor factories at Cheliabinsk, Stalingrad, and Kharkov; automobile factories in Moscow and Sormovo; the Kramator heavy machinery plant, and so on.
New sectors of industry were established that had not existed in tsarist Russia: machine tools, automobile and tractor manufacture, airplane factories, the production of high-grade steel, ferrous alloys, synthetic rubber. The construction was begun of thousands of kilometers of new railways and canals, and of many new cities and workers’ settlements. New centers of heavy industry were cited in the territories of the non-Russian peoples, the former borderlands of tsarist Russia–in Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, the North Caucasus, Siberia, and Buriat-Mongolia. This wider dispersal of industry created a second center of the metallurgical and oil industries in the eastern part of the country.
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 279

In January 1933, Stalin delivered a swaggering Bolshevik rodomontade to the Plenum: the Five-Year Plan had been a remarkable success. The Party had delivered a tractor industry, electric power, coal, steel and oil production. Cities had been built where none stood before. The Dnieper River Dam and power station and the Turk-Sib railway and all been completed….
Montefiore, Sebag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 119


Kuromiya showed how Stalin presented industrialization as a class war of the oppressed against the old ruling classes.
This idea is correct. Nevertheless, through untold numbers of literary and historical works, we are told to sympathize with those who were repressed during the class wars of industrialization and collectivization. We are told that repression is `always inhuman’ and that a civilized nation is not allowed to hurt a social group, even if it was exploiting.
What can be said against this so-called `humanist’ argument?
How was the industrialization of the `civilized world’ made? How did the London and Paris bankers and industries create their industrial base? Could their industrialization have been possible without the pillage of the India? Pillage accompanied by the extermination of more than sixty million American Indians? Would it have been possible without the slave trade in Africans, that monstrous bloodbath? UNESCO experts estimate the African losses at 210 million persons, killed during raids or on ships, or sold as slaves. Could our industrialization have been possible without colonization, which made entire peoples prisoners in their own native lands?
And those who industrialized this little corner of the world called Europe, at the cost of millions of `indigenous’ deaths, tell us that the Bolshevik repression against the possessing classes was an abomination? Those who industrialized their countries by chasing peasants off the land with guns, who massacred women and children with working days of fourteen hours, who imposed slave wages, always with the threat of unemployment and famine, they dare go on at book length about the `forced’ industrialization of the Soviet Union?
If Soviet industrialization could only take place by repressing the rich and reactionary five per cent, capitalist industrialization consisted of the terror exercised by the rich five per cent against the working masses, both in their own countries and in dominated ones.
Industrialization was a class war against the old exploiting classes, which did everything they possibly could to prevent the success of the socialist experience. It was often accomplished through bitter struggle within the working class itself: illiterate peasants were torn out of their traditional world and hurled into modern production, bringing with them all their prejudices and their retrograde concepts.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 43 [p. 39 on the NET]

We have seen the follies and the cruelties that attended Stalin’s ‘great change’. They inevitably recall those of England’s industrial revolution, as Karl Marx has described them in Das Kapital. The analogies are as numerous as they are striking. In the closing chapter of the first volume of his work, Marx depicts the ‘primitive accumulation” of capital (or the ‘previous accumulation’, as Adam Smith called it), the first violent processes by which one social class accumulated in its hands the means of production, while other classes were being deprived of their land and means of livelihood and reduced to the status of wage-earners. The process which, in the 30s, took place in Russia might be called the ‘primitive accumulation’ of socialism in one country….
In this way the individual farmers were either compelled to join the collective farms or were virtually expropriated. Marx recalls ‘the bloody discipline’ by which the free peasants of England were made into wage-laborers, ‘the disgraceful action of the state which employed the police to accelerate the accumulation of capital by increasing the degree of exploitation of labor’. His words might apply to many of the practices introduced by Stalin. Marx sums up his picture of the English industrial revolution by saying that ‘capital comes [into the world] dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt’. Thus also comes into the world–socialism in one country.
In spite of its ‘blood and dirt’, the English industrial revolution–Marx did not dispute this–marked a tremendous progress in the history of mankind. It opened a new and not unhopeful epoch of civilization. Stalin’s industrial revolution can claim the same merit. It is argued against it that it has perpetrated cruelties excusable in earlier centuries but unforgivable in this. This is a valid argument, but only within limits. Russia had been belated in her historical development. In England serfdom had disappeared by the end of the 14th century. Stalin’s parents were still serfs. By the standards of British history, the 14th and the 20th centuries have, in a sense, met in contemporary Russia…. Even in the most irrational and convulsive phase of his industrial revolution, however, Stalin could make the claim that his system was free from at least one major and cruel folly which afflicted the advanced nations of the west: ‘The capitalists [these were his words spoken during the Great Depression] consider it quite normal in a time of slump to destroy the “surplus” of commodities and burn “excess” agricultural produce in order to keep up high prices and ensure high profits, while here, in the USSR, those guilty of such crimes would be sent to a lunatic asylum.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 342

When one discussed these matters [peasants selling their grain] with some knowledgeable Russian, he had a simple explanation and defense:
The capital goods that we need for creating heavy industry do not drop down from heaven; they must be obtained through the wealth that is most accessible to us, the peasants’ and labor and property. Prosperity cannot be achieved without an emphasis on heavy industry, and when it is achieved the peasants may sell their grain freely, but not before.
Tuominen, Arvo, The Bells of the Kremlin: Hanover: University Press of New England, 1983, p. 123


Incredible rebuttal to all those educated renegades who read in scientific books that socialist construction in one country, particularly a peasant one, is not possible. The theory of the `impossibility of socialism in the USSR’, spread by the Mensheviks and the Trotskyists was a mere lamentation showing the pessimism and the capitulationist spirit among the petite bourgeoisie. As the socialist cause progressed, their hatred for real socialism, that thing that should not exist, only sharpened.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 51 [p. 42 on the NET]


Industrial development had been the raison d’etre of the Communist system, and the first five-year plan named the expansion of industry as the key to national prosperity. The industrial front was deliberately touted as the symbol of the successes of Soviet planning: 1500 big enterprises were built during the first five-year plan, including the Magnitogorsk metallurgical complex, the Ural machine factory, the Kharkov tractor plant, and automobile plants in Moscow and Novgorod. New industries were developed: in aviation, chemicals, machine tools, synthetic rubber, and more. To a world plunged into economic depression, the successes of Soviet planning looked very attractive.

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 421

Meanwhile, there is no more gripping economic and social phenomenon recorded in the pages of history than the superhuman effort which is being made in the Soviet Union to industrialize in the shortest possible time a fundamentally agricultural country, to awaken a powerful people out of its traditional lethargy, and to build a new social order from which the last vestiges of human exploitation and slavery are ultimately to vanish.

Davis, Jerome. The New Russia. New York: The John Day company, c1933, p. 87


Today, some of our writers claim that during that period only Moscow and two or three others big cities were well supplied. This is not true. In the summer of 1935, I took groups of foreign tourists to many places. I deliberately walked into stores to see what was on sale. Everywhere the shops offered a wide variety of foodstuffs and goods. But more importantly, there were no lines anywhere and no one was traveling to the big cities to buy food.
If I were to enumerate the foodstuffs, drinks, and goods that appeared in the stores in 1935 and 1947, my Soviet contemporaries probably wouldn’t believe me. There was black and red caviar in wooden barrels at quite affordable prices. Huge whole salmon, lox, all kinds of meat, ham, piglets, sausages the names of which have long been forgotten, cheeses, fruits, and berries–all of which could be purchased in any amount and without standing in line. Even at subway stations stands offered sausage, ham, cheese, sandwiches, and snacks. Chops and steaks were laid out on large dripping pans. And when you traveled in the country, you could enter any house on a hot day, and its owners, just as during the NEP, would offer you a glass of milk or cold ryazhenka and wouldn’t take money for it.
Berezhkov, Valentin. At Stalin’s Side. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Pub. Group, c1994, p. 220

In the first months of 1935, life noticeably improved, and by the summer it was looking quite normal. Although it was not possible to regain the NEP level of abundance, the people began to breathe more easily. They were getting better food and Stalin’s claim that “life’s become better, life’s become more fun to live” seemed to be getting some justification. The second part of that formula also seemed to be coming true: “… and when life is more fun to live, work gets done faster.” Private initiative was still not encouraged, unlike in the 1920s, but the government trade and service sectors began functioning more efficiently, making life better.
…many of us began to feel that the terrible sacrifices of the early 1930s had not been in vain, and that in the final analysis Stalin was right when he radically changed the country’s system, putting it on the track of industrialization and collectivization.
Berezhkov, Valentin. At Stalin’s Side. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Pub. Group, c1994, p. 227

All that happened a little later, but in the summer months of 1935 we felt happy and hopeful. The hungry years were gone. Life held out a promise of many interesting things to come.
Berezhkov, Valentin. At Stalin’s Side. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Pub. Group, c1994, p. 230

The last summer of my work at Intourist was especially interesting. There were even more tourists that year than in 1934, and I had to travel a lot around the country, accompanying them. The railway stations were once again bustling with activity;… A sense was in the air that the country was gradually coming back to life after the shock of collectivization. In Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, Odessa–all cities I visited–life had also returned to normal. It seemed that at long last the country was entering a favorable streak.
Berezhkov, Valentin. At Stalin’s Side. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Pub. Group, c1994, p. 231

Stalin announced that the first Plan was 93.7% successful. He was referring to industrial results, and probably he exaggerated. Even so, it was a tremendous, unprecedented effort; the only thing in the world quite to be compared to it was the expansion of the United States in the frontier period. Industrial output quadrupled in four years, an “outstanding and unsurpassed achievement.” The production of steel increased 40 percent in four years, of pig iron 84 percent. Tractor, automobile, engineering, aviation industries were created out of nothing. Entire new cities were built on the Siberian steppes, or in the Urals, like Magnitogorsk, an industrial colossus that will probably become the largest steel plant in Europe. Enough machinery was imported to enable the USSR to maintain succeeding five-year plans with diminishing amounts of foreign aid. Mines were developed–with the not unimportant result that the USSR now possesses the third-largest gold reserve in the world. Unemployment ceased. All this, too, at a time when the capitalist powers were ravaged by an economic crisis of unprecedented severity and scope.
The costs of the Plan were of course enormous…. In communist jargon, the first Five-Year Plan was a period of “postponed consumption.” Sacrifice, in other words, had to precede sufficiency.
In the second plan, the tempo of activity was a good deal relaxed. The second plan was not so much publicized as the first. It aimed to complete the collectivization of agriculture by 1937, and to stress the production of consumers’ goods, rather than heavy industrial products, in order to lessen the terrible need in Russia for such items as–to choose at random–nails, decent paper, rope, kitchenware, plumbing utensils, scientific and medical supplies, boots, metalware. It hoped to double the food supply in the cities and reduce retail prices something like 35 percent.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 564-565


There have been so many stories about food shortages in Russia that one doesn’t know whether to believe them or not. During the days following the Revolution and blockade there were, quite naturally, severe shortages. Even now at times there are deficiencies in some sections of the country. Why? Because it is necessary for the government to do a tremendous amount of foreign purchasing so as to care for the economic industrial program on which it is concentrating. And in order to pay for the machinery, supplies, and technical assistance, it is necessary to export commodities which have a ready market. Most of the commodities exported are foodstuffs– wheat, butter, eggs, which should remain in the country for internal consumption. When international payments are heavy a temporary shortage results which means denying the people of items really needed in their own country.
The consignment of Black Sea butter which arrived in the London harbor recently on the Soviet vessel, Neva, a ship without a steering wheel, is typical of a Russia that considers it more important to fast that she might sell butter to get money for making scientific progress in her merchant naval equipment as well as other projects. It is not a case of having plenty of food, but of selling to pay foreign debts and to buy equipment to produce more food and commodities.
In many cases food shipments have been delayed by railroad tie-ups, this being caused by the congestion of traffic, due chiefly to lack of facilities, in moving the tremendous amount of freight required for producing the means of production, including railway equipment and increased trackage.
Russia has been faced with other difficulties concerning the food situation,–with slowness of the peasant class in becoming socialized. The “kulaks” resorted to withholding their products, secret selling, and even outright destruction in the years 1928 and 1929.
Wright, Russell. One-Sixth of the World’s Surface. Hammond, Ind., The Author, c1932, p. 136-138

Certainly, the harvest decline was not the only cause of the Soviet famine: the regime exported food during the crisis. The amount of grain exported during the peak of the famine in the first half of 1933, however, approximately 220,000 tons, was small, less than 1% of the lowest harvest estimates, and the regime was using virtually all the rest of the available harvest to feed people.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 4


One of the more impudent legends circulated by the Trotskyists is that Stalin, after having defeated Trotsky, borrowed Trotsky’s policy for the rapid industrialization of the country–hence the Five-Year Plan. Trotsky calmly tells us (The Revolution Betrayed, page 40) that at the end of 1928, “Industrialization was put on the order of the day.” But the decision to carry out immediately a policy of rapid industrialization was decided at the 14th Party Congress in December 1925–9 months before Trotsky and Zinoviev became reconciled enough even to talk to each other, let alone formulate an opposition programme on the question of industrialization, and more than three years before the time referred to by Trotsky.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 62


There were a lot of things about which I had not yet made up my mind, but I couldn’t be ignorant of the fact that the work supplied by our concentration camps had played a sometimes essential part in our exploitation of the northern forests, in the building of our great works at Khibinogorsk and even at Magnitogorsk, and in the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal….
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited,1938, p. 273


Stalin tested his views not only in speeches to the Central Committee and in the press, but on very rare occasions also in front of workers. His assistant, Tovstukha, wrote down one such speech that he made in the Stalin workshops of the October Railway on March 1, 1927. Stalin, beating time with his hand, slowly expounded:
“We are completing the changeover from a peasant country to an industrial one without help from the outside world. How did other countries make this journey?
England created her industry by robbing her colonies for a period of fully 200 years. There can be no question of our taking the same path.
Germany took 5 billion [francs] from defeated France. But that way, too, the way of robbery through victorious wars, is not for us. Our cause is a policy of peace.
There is also a third way, that chosen by tsarist Russia. That was through foreign loans and secret deals at the expense of the workers and peasants. We cannot take that path.
We have our own way, and that is to accumulate our own. We will not get by without mistakes, there will be shortcomings. But the edifice we are building is so grand that these mistakes and shortcomings will not be important in the end.”
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 110

He [Bukharin] went on to explain Stalin’s new concept, which was the reason for their disagreements. “Stalin’s line was that capitalism grows at the expense of its colonies. We have no colonies, and no one will make us loans. We must therefore rely on tribute from our own peasantry. Stalin knows that there will be resistance. Hence his theory that as Socialism grows so does resistance to it.”
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 235

Capitalist countries as a rule built up their heavy industries with funds obtained from abroad, whether by colonial plunder, or by exacting indemnities from vanquished nations, or else by foreign loans. The Soviet Union could not as a matter of principle resort to such infamous means of obtaining funds as the plunder of colonies or of vanquished nations. As for foreign loans, that avenue was closed to the USSR, as the capitalist countries refused to lend it anything. The funds had to be found inside the country.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 281


In the final year of NEP (1928) there were only 31 functioning foreign enterprises in the Soviet Union, with a capital (in 1925) of a mere 32 million rubles ($16 million). The majority of these enterprises engaged not in manufacturing but the exploitation of Russia’s natural resources, especially timber: the latter accounted for 85 percent of the foreign capital invested in concessions.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 396

It appeared that in 1925 Comrade Khurgin, who was carrying out Koba’s personal commission, opened negotiations in New York concerning the lease of part of the Kamchatka Peninsula to some American financial interests. Koba intended killing two birds with one stone: to secure our recognition by Washington, and obtain a banking credit of 500 million U.S. dollars.
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 48


Seen from another angle, the ‘iron curtain’ has been a variety of economic protectionism. No great modern nation, with the peculiar exception of the British, has developed its industry without defending itself by high tariff walls and a variety of other prohibitive measures against the competition of older industrialized nations. Shielded by protectionism, the United States and Germany grew to their industrial maturity. Socialism in one country could not but resort to the same method. Other nations had in their industrial development been favored by the assistance of foreign capital or, in the case of the United States, by the geographic ‘protectionism’ of two oceans. Bolshevik Russia had no comparable advantages. Foreign capital did not help her to develop her wealth. She had hardly started her industrialization in real earnest before she was confronted with the threat of new, total war and was compelled to divert much of her wealth to armament. This made her industrial revolution infinitely more painful than it might otherwise have been; and this invested her protectionism with extraordinary severity and harshness.
That severity, the harshness, was felt in the first instance by the ordinary working man. The Government and the planning authorities had to allocate the national resources to the development of industry and transport, the mechanization of agriculture, armaments, and private consumption. The larger the resources allocated to industry and armament, the less, relatively or even absolutely, was left over for private consumption. This was the plain economic logic of the situation, a logic which all belligerent nations were to learn or re-learn, in different degrees, in the years of the Second World War, but with which Russia had been uncomfortably familiar many years before. The standard of living of the mass of the people, traditionally very low, was sacrificed to higher purposes of national policy. In spite of all that, it began appreciably to rise in the late 30s. But the rise was ephemeral. War once again depressed the standard of living to a terribly low level.
The mass of the Russian people saw how rapidly the nation grew wealthier and wealthier, while the overwhelming majority of its members remained individually poor or even grew poorer and poorer. True enough, the economists knew that this had been roughly the position of almost every nation engaged in an industrial revolution. The essence of protectionism in the 19th century was that it withheld cheap foreign goods from the mass of consumers in order to shield and stimulate the growth of the nation’s industrial strength. But in no other country had the contrast between the accumulation of national wealth and individual property been as sharp as in Russia under Stalin; and, what is perhaps more important, in no other country had that contrast been identified with socialism and a classless society. Stalin asked the working-class not only to make the effort they were making and bear the sacrifices they were bearing, but also to believe that they had an easier and better life than the peoples of the capitalist countries. This was not and could not have been true; and this was not the fault of socialism. Nor was it, by and large, the fault of Stalin or of his Government, although some of their mistakes aggravated the situation.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 556-557

The basis of Soviet economy is production for use, not profit. “Each man shall work according to his abilities, and receive according to his needs.” The communist party considers itself a sort of central organization with authority over the whole nation to distribute both activity and rewards according to this formula. It mercilessly extracts profits from laborers and peasants–for instance H.R. Knickerbocker has calculated that the profit of the government on grain is 1000%–but these profits are all plowed back into the business. There are no private gains. The interests of the country as a whole, as determined by the communist party, are the only criterion.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 565


The much disputed but undeniable growth of Soviet industry under Stalin was of necessity accompanied by the growth of the Soviet proletariat. Industrial workers constituted less than 10 percent of the Soviet population in 1928. At Stalin’s death they were more than a third of the people, and their proportion was still increasing. This sheer numerical growth of the proletariat was a great reassurance and comfort to Stalin, for it was one of the major purposes of the industrialization program.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 183


[In a letter to Kaganovich and Molotov on 15 July 1932 Stalin stated] I am sending you an extremely offensive diatribe by the foreign correspondent Basseches against Soviet economic policy. Basseches is a correspondent for Neue Freie Presse. He once wrote a vile article about forced labor in the timber industry. We wanted to kick him out of the USSR, but because he repented, he was left in the USSR. Later he wrote vile things about the policy of economic accountability. But we stupidly overlooked these vile things. Now he is outdoing himself with regard to loans and collective-farm trade. Yet we are keeping quiet like idiots, and are putting up with the slander from this pup and of the capitalist shopkeepers. Bol-she-viks, ho-ho….
I propose:
a) dragging this capitalist on through the mud in Pravda and Izvestia;
b) a short time after that, expelling him from the USSR.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 158


As for the tanks [before the Battle of Kursk], it was calculated that the losses might amount to from 65% to 75% of the effectives engaged. The abundance of means was such that these percentages were regarded as acceptable. In order to judge of the scale of this effort it will suffice to recall that for the Dnieper offensive it was calculated that 5500 tanks would be needed; so that the percentage of losses estimated represented 4000 tanks. Here the industrialization which had cost the USSR so many sacrifices and victims shows the importance of the results which it had achieved.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 340


In that period, when the First Five-year Plan of super-rapid industrialization got under way, the Soviet Union hired specialists from all over the world, with Germany and the USA supplying the biggest contingents.
Blumenfeld, Hans. Life Begins at 65. Montreal, Canada: Harvest House, c1987, p. 126


After the difficulties of 1932 and 1933 had been overcome and the level of living began improving rapidly, the victory of the revolution was no longer in doubt. We were looking forward to the blossoming of socialist society, including a gradual widening of diversity of opinion. Arthur Koestler has spoken of “darkness at noon.” Darkness at dawn would be more appropriate.
Blumenfeld, Hans. Life Begins at 65. Montreal, Canada: Harvest House, c1987, p. 161

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