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Heroism and enthusiasm

Despising socialism, the bourgeoisie loves to stress the `forced' character of the industrialization. Those who lived through or observed the socialist industrialization through the eyes of the working masses emphasize these essential traits: heroism at work and the enthusiasm and combative character of the working masses.

During the First Five Year Plan, Anna Louise Strong,  a young U.S. journalist hired by the Soviet Moscow News newspaper, traveled the country. When in 1956, Khrushchev  made his insidious attack on Stalin, she recalled certain essential facts. Speaking of the First Five Year Plan, she made the following judgment: `never in history was so great an advance so swift'.


Anna Louise Strong,  The Stalin Era (Publisher unknown, 1956), p. 33.

In 1929, first year of the Plan, the enthusiasm of the working masses was such that even an old specialist of ancient Russia, who spat out his spite for the Bolsheviks in 1918, had to recognize that the country was unrecognizable. Dr. Émile Joseph Dillon  had lived in Russia from 1877 to 1914 and had taught at several Russian universities. When he left in 1918, he had written:

`In the Bolshevik movement there is not the vestige of a constructive or social idea .... For Bolshevism is Tsardom upside down. To capitalists it metes out treatment as bad as that which the Tsars dealt to serfs.'


Webb,   op. cit. , p. 810.

Ten years later, in 1928, Dr. Dillon  revisited the USSR, and was lost in amazement at what he saw:

`Everywhere people are thinking, working, combining, making scientific discoveries and industrial inventions .... Nothing like it; nothing approaching it in variety, intensity, tenacity of purpose has ever yet been witnessed. Revolutionary endeavour is melting colossal obstacles and fusing heterogeneous elements into one great people; not indeed a nation in the old-world meaning but a strong people cemented by quasi-religious enthusiasm .... The Bolsheviks then have accomplished much of what they aimed at, and more than seemed attainable by any human organisation under the adverse conditions with which they had to cope. They have mobilised well over 150,000,000 of listless dead-and-alive human beings, and infused into them a new spirit.'


Ibid. , pp. 810--811.

Anna Louise Strong  remembered how the miracles of industrialization took place.

`The Kharkov (Tractor) Works had a special problem. It was built ``outside the plan.'' (In 1929,) Peasants joined collective farms faster than expected. Kharkov, proudly Ukrainian, built its own plant ``outside the Five-Year Plan ....'' All steel, bricks, cement, labor were already assigned for five years. Kharkov could get steel only by inducing some steel plant to produce ``above the plan.'' To fill the shortage of unskilled labor, tens of thousands of people --- office workers, students, professors --- volunteered on free days .... ``Every morning, at half-past six, we see the special train come in,'' said Mr. Raskin.  ``They come with bands and banners, a different crowd each day and always jolly.'' It was said that half the unskilled labor that built the Plant was done by volunteers.'


Strong,  op. cit. , pp. 28--29.

In 1929, since agricultural collectivization had developed in an unexpected manner, the Kharkov Tractor Works was not the only `correction' to the Plan. The Putilov factory in Leningrad produced 1,115 tractors in 1927 and 3,050 in 1928. After heated discussions at the factory, a plan was drawn up to produce 10,000 tractors for 1930! In fact, 8,935 were produced.

The miracle of industrialization in a decade was influenced not only by the upheavals taking place in the backward countryside, but also by the growing menace of war.

The Magnitogorsk steel works was designed for annual production of 656,000 tonnes. In 1930, a plan was drawn up to produce 2,500,000.


Kuromiya,  op. cit. , p. 145.

But the plans for steel production were soon revised upwards: in 1931, the Japanese army occupied Manchuria and was threatening the Siberian borders. The next year, the Nazis, in power in Berlin, were publishing their claims to Ukraine. John Scott  was a U.S. engineer, working in Magnitogorsk. He evoked the heroic efforts of workers and the decisive importance for the defence of the Soviet Union.

`By 1942 the Ural industrial district became the stronghold of Soviet resistance. Its mines, mills, and shops, its fields and forests, are supplying the Red Army with immense quantities of military materials of all kinds, spare parts, replacements, and other manufactured products to keep Stalin's mechanized divisions in the field.

`The Ural industrial region covers an area of some five hundred miles square almost in the center of the largest country in the world. Within this area Nature placed rich deposits of iron, coal, copper, aluminum, lead, asbestos, manganese, potash, gold, silver, platinum, zinc, and petroleum, as well as rich forests and hundreds of thousands of acres of arable land. Until 1930 these fabulous riches were practically undeveloped. During the decade from 1930 to 1940 some two hundred industrial aggregates of all kinds were constructed and put into operation in the Urals. This herculean task was accomplished thanks to the political sagacity of Joseph Stalin and his relentless perseverance in forcing through the realization of his construction program despite fantastic costs and fierce difficulties ....

`(Stalin favored heavy industry.) He further asserted that new industries must be concentrated in the Urals and Siberia thousands of miles away from the nearest frontiers, out of reach of any enemy bombers. Whole new industries must be created. Russia had hitherto been dependent on other countries for almost its entire supply of rubber, chemicals, machine tools, tractors, and many other things. These commodities could and must be produced in the Soviet Union in order to ensure the technical and military independence of the country.

`Bukharin  and many other old Bolsheviks disagreed with Stalin. They held that light industries should be built first; the Soviet people should be furnished with consumers' goods before they embarked on a total industrialization program. Step by step, one after another these dissenting voices were silenced. Stalin won. Russia embarked on the most gigantic industrialization plan the world had ever seen.

`In 1932 fifty-six per cent of the Soviet Union's national income was invested in capital outlay. This was an extraordinary achievement. In the United States in 1860--1870, when we were building our railroads and blast furnaces, the maximum recapitalization for any one year was in the neighborhood of twelve per cent of the national income. Moreover, American industrialization was largely financed by European capital, while the man power for the industrial construction world poured in from China, Ireland, Poland, and other European countries. Soviet industrialization was achieved almost without the aid of foreign capital.'


John Scott,  Behind the Urals: An American Worker in Russia's city of steel, enlarged edition (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press), pp. 256--257.

The hard life and the sacrifices of industrialization were consciously and enthusiastically accepted by the majority of workers. They had their noses to the grindstone, but they knew that it was for themselves, for a future with dignity and freedom for all workers. Hiroaki Kuromiya  wrote:

`Paradoxical as it may appear, the forced accumulation was a source not only of privation and unrest but also of Soviet heroism .... Soviet youth in the 1930s found heroism in working in factories and on construction sites like Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk.'


Kuromiya,  op. cit. , pp. 305--306.

`(T)he rapid industrialization drive of the First Five-Year Plan symbolized the grandiose and dramatic goal of building a new society. Promoted against the background of the Depression and mass unemployment in the West, the Soviet industrialization drive did evoke heroic, romantic, and enthusiastic ``superhuman'' efforts. ``The word `enthusiasm,' like many others, has been devalued by inflation,'' Ilya Ehrenburg  has written, ``yet there is no other word to fit the days of the First Five Year Plan; it was enthusiasm pure and simple that inspired the young people to daily and spectacular feats.'' According to another contemporary, ``those days were a really romantic, intoxicating time'': ``People were creating by their own hands what had appeared a mere dream before and were convinced in practice that these dreamlike plans were an entirely realistic thing.'' '


Ibid. , p. 316.

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Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995