Five-year plans of the Soviet Union
|Politics of the Soviet Union|
|Collective leadership • State Council |
|Congress • Central Committee • History|
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|Congress of Soviets • Supreme Soviet |
Congress of People's Deputies
|1924 Soviet Constitution |
1936 Soviet Constitution
1977 Soviet Constitution • Government
|Soviet democracy • Marxism–Leninism |
Leninism • Stalinism • Khrushchevism
De-Stalinization • Perestroika • Glasnost
|Five-Year Plan • Kosygin reform |
New Economic Policy
Era of Stagnation • Material balance planning
Censorship • Censorship of images
Great Purge • Gulag system
Collectivization • Ideological repression
Political abuse of psychiatry
Political repression • Population transfer
Propaganda • Suppressed research
Red Terror • Soviet Empire
The five-year plans for the development of the national economy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (Russian: Пятилетние планы развития народного хозяйства СССР, Pyatiletniye plany razvitiya narodnogo khozyaystva SSSR) consisted of a series of nationwide centralized economic plans in the Soviet Union, beginning in the late 1920s. The Soviet state planning committee, Gosplan, developed these plans based on the theory of the productive forces that formed part of the ideology of the Communist Party for development of the Soviet economy. Marxist materialism postulated that the change in the means of production preceded a charge in the relations of productions. On this view, building socialism required an industrial base that could produce enough surplus value to meet society's needs. As Russia was not a mature capitalist society at the time of the Russian Revolution, the Soviet government needed to build up its industrial base.
Fulfilling the current plan became the watchword of nomenklatura. Several Soviet five-year plans did not take up the full period of time assigned to them: some were pronounced successfully completed earlier than expected, some took much longer than expected, and others failed altogether and had to be abandoned. Altogether, Gosplan launched thirteen five-year plans. The initial five-year plans aimed to achieve rapid industrialization in the Soviet Union, placing a major focus on heavy industry. The first five-year plan, accepted in 1928 for the period from 1929 to 1933, finished one year early. The last five-year plan, for the period from 1991 to 1995, was not completed, since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991.
Other communist states, including the People's Republic of China, and to a lesser extent, the Republic of Indonesia, implemented a process of using five year plans as focal points for economic and societal development.
Joseph Stalin inherited the New Economic Policy (NEP) from Vladimir Lenin. The NEP was Lenin's response to a crisis. The Russian Civil War, the main reason for the introduction of War Communism, had virtually been won, but at a high economic cost. In 1920, industrial production was 13% and agricultural production 20% of 1913 figures. Between February 21 and March 17, 1921, under these conditions of privation, the sailors in Kronstadt mutinied.
In 1921, Lenin persuaded the 10th Party Congress to approve the NEP as a replacement for the War Communism. In War Communism, the state had assumed control of all means of production, exchange and communication. All land had been declared nationalized by the Decree on Land, finalized in the 1922 Land Code, which also set collectivization as the long-term goal. Although the peasants had been allowed to work the land they held, the production surplus was bought by the state (on the state's terms). Consequently, the peasants cut production, leading to the state requisitioning food. Money gradually came to be replaced by barter and a system of coupons.
When the war ended, the NEP was introduced. During NEP, the state had controlled all large enterprises (i.e. factories, mines, railways) as well as enterprises of medium size, but small private enterprises, employing fewer than 20 people, were allowed. The requisitioning of farm produce was replaced by a tax system (a fixed proportion of the crop), and the peasants were free to sell their surplus (at a state-regulated price) - although they were encouraged to join state farms (Sovkhozes, set up on land expropriated from nobles after the 1917 revolution). They worked for a fixed wage like workers in a factory. Money came back into use, and new bank notes were issued, backed by gold. In the 1920s, there was a great debate between Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov on the one hand, and Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev on the other. The former group supported NEP as providing sufficient state control of the economy and sufficiently rapid development, while the latter argued that NEP was not communist. The argued in favor of more rapid development and greater state control, taking the view, among other things, that profits should be shared among all people, and not just among a privileged few.
In 1925, at the 14th Party Congress, Stalin, as he usually did in the early days, stayed in the background but sided with the Bukharin group. By October 1927, after Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev were expelled from the Party, Stalin changed sides, supporting those in favor of a new course, with greater state control.
Each five-year plan dealt with all aspects of development: capital goods (those used to produce other goods, like factories and machinery), consumer goods (e.g. chairs, carpets, and irons), agriculture, transportation, communications, health, education, and welfare. However, the emphasis varied from plan to plan, although generally the emphasis was on power (electricity), capital goods, and agriculture. There were base and optimum targets. Efforts were made, especially in the third plan, to move industry eastward to make it safer from attack during the impending war. Soviet planners declared a need for "constant struggle, struggle, and struggle" to achieve a Communist society. These five-year plans outlined programs for huge increases in the output of industrial goods. Stalin warned that without an end to economic backwardness "the advanced countries...will crush us." From 1928 to 1940 (roughly the period of the first three plans), the number of Soviet workers in industry, construction, and transport grew from 4.6 million to 12.6 million and factory output soared.Stalin's first five-year plan helped make the USSR a leading industrial nation.
First plan, 1928–1932
During this period, the first purges were initiated targeting many people working for Gosplan. These included Vladimir Bazarov, in the 1931 Menshevik Trial (centered on Vladimir Groman).
Stalin announced the start of the first five-year plan for industrialization on October 1, 1928. It lasted until December 31, 1932. Stalin described it as a new revolution from above. When this plan began, the USSR was fifth in industrialization, and with the first five-year plan moved up to second, behind only the United States.
This plan met industrial targets in less time than originally predicted. The production goals were increased by a reported 50% during the initial deliberation of industrial targets. Much of the emphasis was placed on heavy industry. Approximately 86% of all industrial investments during this time went directly to heavy industry. Officially, the first five-year plan for industry was fulfilled to the extent of 93.7% in just four years and three months. Heavy industry exceeded the quota, registering 103.4%. The light, or consumer goods, industry reached up to 84.9% of its assigned quota. However, the legitimacy of these numbers is in doubt. Soviet statistics were notoriously misleading or exaggerated, as consequences for failure were severe. There are also questions about whether quality was sacrificed in order to achieve quantity. Even if we take the numbers at face value, consumer goods lagged and rationing had to be implemented to solve chronic food and supply shortages.
Use of Propaganda
The state used propaganda techniques before, during and after the first five-year plan, comparing industry to battle. This was highly successful. They used terms such as "fronts," "campaigns," and "breakthroughs," while at the same time workers were forced to work harder than ever before and were organized into "shock troops." Those who rebelled or failed to keep up with their work were treated as traitors. The posters and flyers used to promote and advertise the plan were also reminiscent of wartime propaganda. A popular military metaphor emerged from the economic success of the first five-year plan: "There are no fortresses Bolsheviks cannot storm." Stalin especially liked this.
The first five-year plan was not just about economics. This plan was a revolution that intended to transform all aspects of society. The way of life for the majority of the people changed drastically during this revolutionary time. The plan was also referred to as the "Great Turn." Individual peasant farming gave way to collective farming in an attempt to both increase food supplies for urban workers and to bring the peasantry into a system more in keeping with the state's communist ideology. Peasant property and entire villages were incorporated into the state economy which had its own market forces.
There was, however, a strong resistance which led the state to increase its efforts in the autumn of 1929 and the winter of 1930. Between September and December 1929, collectivization increased from 7.4 percent to 15 percent of the peasant population, but in the first two months of 1930, 11 million households joined collectivized farms, pushing the total to nearly 60 percent almost overnight.
The peasants led an all-out attack to protect individual farming; the collectivization plan resembled a very bloody military campaign against the peasant's traditional lifestyle.The kulaks, (the more experienced farmers who had succeeded after the Emancipation reform of 1861), were coerced into giving up their land to make way for these collective farms or risk being killed, deported, or sent to labor camps. Inexperienced peasants from urban areas would then replace the missing workforce of the agriculture sector, which was then considered overstaffed, inefficient, and import-dependent.Under Stalin's grossly inefficient system, agricultural yields actually declined at first rather than increased.
The struggle to implement collectivization led directly to the famine of 1932–33. The famine peaked during the winter of '32–'33 claiming the lives of an estimated 3.3 to 7 million people, while millions more were permanently disabled. The famine was the direct result of the industrialization and collectivization implemented by the first Five Year-Plan. Many of the peasants who were suffering from the famine began to sabotage the fulfillment of their obligations to the state and would, as often as they could, stash away stores of food.
Many scholars believe that a few other important factors, such as foreign policy and internal security, went into the execution of the five-year plan. While ideology and economics were a major part, preparation for the upcoming war also affected all of the major parts of the five-year plan. The war effort really picked up in 1933 when Hitler came to power in Germany. The stress this caused on internal security and control in the five-year plan is difficult to document.
While most of the figures were overstated, Stalin announced that the plan had been achieved ahead of schedule. However the many investments made by the West were excluded. While many factories were built and industrial production did increase exponentially, they were not close to reaching their target numbers.
While there was rapid industrialization, it came with many problems. Its approach to industrialization was very inefficient and extreme amounts of resources were put into construction that, in many cases, was never completed. These resources were also put into equipment that was never used, or not even needed in the first place. Many of the consumer goods produced during this time were of such low quality that they could never be used and were wasted.
Second plan, 1932–1937
The second five-year plan in was announced in 1932, although the official start-date for the plan was 1933. The second five-year plan gave heavy industry top priority, putting the Soviet Union not far behind Germany as one of the major steel-producing countries of the world. Further improvements were made in communications, especially railways, which became faster and more reliable. As was the case with succeeding five-year plans, the second was not as successful as the first, failing to reach the recommended production levels in such areas as the coal and oil industries. The second plan employed incentives as well as punishments and the targets were eased as a reward for the first plan finishing a year ahead of schedule. With the introduction of childcare, mothers were encouraged to work to aid in the plan's success. By 1937 the tolkachi emerged occupying a key position mediating between the enterprises and the commissariat.
Consistent with the Soviet doctrine of state atheism (gosateizm), this five-year plan from 1932 to 1937 also included the liquidation of houses of worship, with the goals of closing churches between 1932–1933 and the elimination of clergy by 1935–1936.
Third plan, 1938–1941
The third five-year plan ran for only 3½ years, cut short by the German invasion the Soviet Union in June 1941, drawing them into the Second World War. As war approached, more resources were put into developing armaments, tanks and weapons, as well as constructing additional military factories east of the Ural mountains.
The first two years of the third five-year plan proved to be even more of a disappointment in meeting production goals. Still, a reported 12% to 13% rate of annual industrial growth was attained in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. The plan had intended to focus on consumer goods, but the plan had to change to accommodate the new reality. The Soviet Union mainly contributed resources to the development of weapons and constructed additional military factories as needed. By 1952, industrial production was nearly double the 1941 level ("five-year plans").
Fourth and fifth plans, 1945–1955
Stalin in 1945 promised that the USSR would be the leading industrial power by 1960.
The USSR at this stage had been devastated by the war. Officially, 98,000 collective farms had been ransacked and ruined, with the loss of 137,000 tractors, 49,000 combine harvesters, 7 million horses, 17 million cattle, 20 million pigs, and 27 million sheep. 25% of all capital equipment had been destroyed in 35,000 plants and factories; 6 million buildings, including 40,000 hospitals, in 70,666 villages and 4,710 towns (40% urban housing) were destroyed, leaving 25 million homeless. About 40% of railway tracks had been destroyed; officially 7.5 million servicemen died, plus 6 million civilians, but perhaps 20 million in all died. In 1945, mining and metallurgy were at 40% of the 1940 levels, electric power was down to 52%, pig-iron 26% and steel 45%; food production was 60% of the 1940 level. After Poland, the USSR had been the hardest hit by the war. Reconstruction was impeded by a chronic labor shortage due to the enormous number of Soviet casualties in the war (between 20 and 30 million). Moreover, 1946 was the driest year since 1891, leading to a poor harvest.
The USA and USSR were unable to agree on the terms of a US loan to aid reconstruction. It was a contributing factor in the rapid escalation of the Cold War. However, the USSR did gain reparations from Germany, and made Eastern European countries make payments in return for the Soviets having liberated them from the Nazis. In 1949, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) was established, linking the Eastern bloc countries economically. One-third of the fourth plan's capital expenditure was spent on Ukraine, which was important agriculturally and industrially, and which had been one of the areas most devastated by war.
Sixth plan, 1956–1958
Seventh plan, 1959–1965
Unlike other planning periods, 1959 saw the announcement of a seven-year plan (Russian: семилетка, semiletka), approved by the 21st Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1959. This was merged into a seventh five-year plan in 1961, which was launched with the slogan "catch up and overtake the USA by 1970." The plan saw a slight shift away from heavy industry into chemicals, consumer goods, and natural resources.
The plan also intended to establish 18 new institutes by working with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
Eighth plan, 1966–1970
The Eighth Five-Year Plan called for various changes in the administration of the economy. Some planning was re-centralized, reversing a policy for regional councils created in 1957. However, individual plant directors gained more power to set policy. The plan implemented economic reforms announced in 1965, which linked wages more closely to output. Given the significant economic transition envisioned by these reforms, and their greater emphasis on economic realism, the Eighth Five-Year Plan set relatively modest production goals.
Introducing the plan at the 23rd Congress, Premier Alexei Kosygin said the USSR would repudiate "subjectivism in deciding economic matters as amateurish contempt for the data of science and practical experience." He focused on the plan's potential to improve quality of life for individuals, saying, "Comrades! Construction of communism and improvement in people's welfare are inseparable." Along these lines, Kosygin promised higher wages, lower prices on consumer goods, and a shift to a five-day work week. The plan set the stage for wider distribution of things like television sets, refrigerators, and washing machines.
Kosygin reaffirmed the need for military spending, which he said was necessary in response to the imperialist wars of the United States. However, this plan abandoned the slogan "Overtake and surpass the U.S.A."
The biggest change in quotas came in the sector of vehicles, which were scheduled for production at three times the rate specified in the previous plan. Whereas Soviet vehicle factories had formerly favored trucks and buses, the 1966 plan called for production of passenger cars (such as the Moskvitch 408) to increase to 53% of the total output. The increased production of vehicles would be made possible with outside technical assistance—most notably from Fiat, in the construction of the AvtoVAZ plant in Togliatti.
The plan also called for agricultural output to expand annually at more than twice the pace as it did from 1958 to 1965, for a total increase in output of 25%.
Ninth plan, 1971–1975
The Ninth Five-Year Plan was presented to the 24th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1971 by Alexei Kosygin, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. The plan's main focus was to increase the growth of industrial produced consumer goods. It was the first five-year plan to call for a higher increase for industrial consumer goods than in capital goods. Brezhnev told the Congress that increasing the standard of living was more important than economic development. The plan proposed an increase in gross national income (GNP) by 37 to 40 percent.
About 14.5 million tonnes of grain were imported by the USSR. Détente and improving relations between the Soviet Union and the United States allowed for more trade. The plan's focus was primarily on increasing the amount of consumer goods in the economy so as to improve Soviet standards of living. While largely failing at that objective it managed to significantly improve Soviet computer technology.
The goals set by the 24th Party Congress were not fulfilled, and for the first time, the Soviet economy was facing not just failure to hit the quotas, but real stagnating growth. While the planned target in consumer goods was higher than in previous plans, the actual growth was far from that planned. Historian Robert Service notes in his book History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-First Century that the economic ministries, in collaboration with the Soviet party-police-military-industrial complex, purposely prevented the targets from being fulfilled. During the plan, investment in the truck industry increased, but the inefficiencies and relative backwardness of blueprints and technology innovation, as noted by Kosygin, were not solved. During the period covered by the plan, Soviet agriculture was hit by chronic drought and bad weather, which led grain production to be 70 million tons short of the planned target. The plan called for the capacity of the Coal Handling and Preparation Plants (CHPP) to increase from 47,000 Megawatt (MW) to 65,000 by 1975. CHPP capacity only reached 59,800 MW. By the end of the Ninth Five-Year Plan, there was a marked slowdown in nearly all sectors of the Soviet economy.
Not everything was a failure, as investment in computer technology increased by 420 percent over the previous plan. It was estimated by the Soviet government that 200,000 workers were involved in improving and introducing modern computer technology in the country. These computer technicians were developing the Automated System for Management (ASU) in an attempt to improve factory and labor productivity. Average real income increased by 4.5 percent per annum.
Tenth plan, 1976–1980
|Republic||Growth in industrial|
output in percent
(according to the USSR)
Brezhnev had proposed in March 1974 that the two major projects in the plan would be (1) construction of the Baikal Amur Mainline railway in Siberia, and (2) rural development of the backward non-chernozem zone of European Russia.
Alexei Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers presented the plan at the 25th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1976. General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev told the Central Committee (CC) in an annual address in October 1976 that "Efficiency and quality" was to become the plan's official motto. Brezhnev claimed that the Soviet economy faced declining growth due to slow technological progress at home hence the plan emphasized the need to buy foreign technology. Soviet agriculture was given top priority, with Brezhnev stating that investment in agriculture (at 27 percent during the Tenth Five-Year Plan) must stay close to at least the same level during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan as it did during the tenth. Investment in the chemical and petrochemical industry doubled in the Tenth Five-Year plan in comparison with its predecessor.
During the term of the plan, renovation of enterprises in the oil refining industry made up two thirds of national capital investment. Due to the Soviet government's emphasis on technological innovation, 10–12 percent of the total investment in machinery and equipment was spent on foreign imported technology. Licensed purchases from the West increased dramatically, with the number of import of licenses issued quadrupling during the Tenth Five-Year Plan compared to the previous five-year plan. According to a report entitled Oil Supplementary by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the USSR would not fulfill its annual output target of 640 million tons of oil.Planned increases in labor productivity also failed to materialize.
The 1979 Soviet economic reform, or "Improving planning and reinforcing the effects of the economic mechanism on raising the effectiveness in production and improving the quality of work," was an economic reform initiated by Alexei Kosygin. In contrast with many of his earlier reform initiatives, such as the 1965 economic reform, which successfully centralized the economy by enhancing the powers of the ministries, this reform failed to fulfill the rest of the Tenth Five-Year Plan.
Eleventh plan, 1981–1985
In his speech to the 26th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Leonid Brezhnev told the delegates that the main goal of the Eleventh Five–Year Plan was to transition the Soviet economy from extensive to intensive growth, and to further improve the standard of living by 18–20 percent by 1985. He also told the Congress that the 1979 economic reform, initiated by Alexei Kosygin, would be of major importance to the five-year plan's success.
By the 1980s the Soviet economy had stagnated, with the natural gas industry the only Soviet fuel industry to surpass the five-year plan's indicators. Although 40,000 robots were produced during the plan, advances in computer technology decreased. At the end of his life, former Premier Alexei Kosygin feared the complete failure of this five-year plan, claiming that the incumbent leadership were reluctant to reform the stagnant Soviet economy. None of the Soviet Far East oblasts fulfilled the five-year plan's housing targets.
By the 1960s, the goal of increasing the labor surplus had become a major obstacle, caused by factors including the declining birth rate. Labor growth had also stagnated with working population growth remaining at 18 percent between 1971 and 1980. The table below uses the planner's targets as a base for comparison with actual increases in industrial growth due to labor productivity.
|Year||% growth achieved|
|11th Five-Year Plan||90|
During the eleventh five-year plan, the country imported some 42 million tons of grain annually, almost twice as much as during the tenth five-year plan and three times as much as during the ninth five-year plan (1971–1975). The bulk of this grain was sold by the West. In 1985, 94% of Soviet grain imports were from the non-socialist world, with the United States selling 14.1 million tons. However, total Soviet export to the West was always almost as high as its imports. In 1984 total export to the West was 21.3 billion rubles, while total import was 19.6 billion rubles.
Twelfth plan, 1986–1990
The 12th and last plan was characterized by perestroika. During the initial period (1985–87) of Mikhail Gorbachev's time in power, he talked about modifying central planning but did not make any truly fundamental changes, instead calling for (uskoreniye; "acceleration"). Gorbachev and his team of economic advisors then introduced more fundamental reforms, which became known as perestroika (restructuring).
In July 1987, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union passed the Law on State Enterprise. The law stipulated that state enterprises were free to determine output levels based on demand from consumers and other enterprises. Enterprises had to fulfill state orders, but they could dispose of the remaining output as they saw fit. However, the state still held control over the means of production for these enterprises, limiting their ability to enact full-cost accountability. Enterprises bought input from suppliers at negotiated contract prices. Under the law, enterprises became self-financing, that is, covering expenses (wages, taxes, supplies, and debt service) through revenues. The government would no longer rescue unprofitable enterprises facing bankruptcy. Finally, the law shifted control over the enterprise operations from ministries to elected workers' collectives. Gosplan's responsibilities were to supply general guidelines and national investment priorities, not to formulate detailed production plans.
The Law on Cooperatives, enacted in May 1988, was perhaps the most radical of the economic reforms during the early part of the Gorbachev era. For the first time since Vladimir Lenin's New Economic Policy was abolished in 1928, the law permitted collective ownership of businesses in the services, manufacturing, and foreign-trade sectors. The law initially imposed high taxes and employment restrictions, but it later revised these to avoid discouraging private-sector activity. Under this provision, cooperative restaurants, shops, and manufacturers became part of the Soviet scene.
Gorbachev's economic changes did not ultimately do much to restart the country's sluggish economy in the late 1980s. The reforms decentralized things to some extent, although price controls remained, as did the ruble's inconvertibility and most government controls over the means of production.
The 1987 Law on State Enterprise and the follow-up decrees about khozraschyot (economic accounting) and self-financing in various areas of the Soviet economy were aimed at the decentralization to overcome the problems of the command economy. In the end it resulted in a profound economic crisis in virtually all areas of the Soviet economy and a drop in production as the system proved irreformable.
Five-year plans in other countries
Most other communist states, including the People's Republic of China, adopted a similar method of planning. Although the Republic of Indonesia under Suharto is known for its anti-communist purge, his government also adopted the same method of planning because of the policy of its socialist predecessor, Sukarno. This series of five-year plans in Indonesia was termed REPELITA (Rencana Pembangunan Lima Tahun); plans I to VI ran from 1969 to 1998.
State planning of the economy required processing large amounts of statistical data. The Soviet State had nationalized the Odhner arithmometer factory in Saint Petersburg after the revolution. Later on the state began renting tabulating equipment. By 1929, it was a very large user of statistical machines, on the scale of the US or Germany. The State Bank had tabulating machines in 14 branches. Other users included the Central Statistical Bureau, the Soviet Commissariat of Finance, Soviet Commissariat of Inspection, Soviet Commissariat of Foreign Trade, the Grain Trust, Soviet Railways, Russian Ford, Russian Buick, the Karkov tractor factory, and the Tula Armament Works. IBM also did business with the Soviet State in the 1930s, including supplying punch cards to the Stalin Automobile Plant.
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ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
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