One of the central aims of the communist regime in the Soviet Union was to industrialize the country. The Soviet economy had made many advances under Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) but economically, the Soviet Union remained behind the rest of Europe. The Five Year Plans were designed to break away from the NEP, with its capitalist elements and bring about rapid industrialization to modernize the economy and bring about Socialism. The changed introduced under the plans were to transform the USSR from a backward peasant-based country into a modern, urban industrial-based society.

   Once in power Stalin was determined to modernize the USSR so that it could meet the challenges which were to come. He took over a country in which almost all the industry was concentrated in just a few cities and whose workers were unskilled and poorly educated.

 Many regions of the USSR were in the same backward state as they had been a hundred years earlier.

  The Five Year Plans were designed to industrialize the USSR in the shortest possible time period. By developing heavy industries, Russia hoped that she could first free herself from dependence on capitalist states for machinery and manufactured goods, and finally rival with the industrial production of the United States and Germany.





   The decision to launch the first Five Year Plan in 1928 was based on a combination of economic and political factors which were linked by a fear of foreign invasion. Despite the economic progress made under the NEP the Soviet economy was still backward when compared to the rest of Europe. In the 1920s the Soviet Union was still producing less coal and steel than France. If the Soviet Union was ever to face an attack from the capitalist powers it would need a much stronger industrial base. Memories of the help given by Britain, France, the US and Japan to the Whites during the civil war of 1918-21 seemed to confirm suspicions that the West would wish to invade and destroy communism at some point in the future. The Soviet government viewed the outside world as hostile to their state. The capitalist West was seen as fundamentally opposed to the communist ideas on which the USSR was based. The Soviet government feared that this hostility would lead to an attack on the USSR by the West.




Fear of invasion gave added weight to the economic reasons used to justify the Five Year Plans. Under the NEP industrial production, although improving, remained disappointing to many in the Communist Party. By 1926 pre-war levels of production had been reached in many sectors but production was nowhere near what it could have been. The disruption of the First World War and the civil war had damaged Russia’s industrial infrastructure, and essential services such as distribution remained haphazard. Soviet production figures were still far below the modern industrial economies of Western Europe. State control under the Five Year Plan would enable the government to direct the economy and ensure the adequate production and distribution of essential materials including the food needed to support industrial and urban growth. With government direction and control the economic resources of the Soviet Union could be maximized. Since the communist takeover in 1917, trade with the rest of the world had been severely reduced. The Soviet Union would have to rely on its own resources. State control would ensure that the full potential of these resources would be realized, so as to bring about rapid industrialization.

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 To all Communist Party members industrialization was seen as a necessary development in order to ensure the survival of the revolution. It was believed that socialism, and with it the Communist Party, would not survive in a non-industrial society. It was therefore essential to undertake a programme of industrial development. Industrialization would create many more members of the proletariat, the backbone of the revolution. The Five Year Plan, with its large scale nationalization and state control would get rid of the detested Nepmen, those private business owners and traders who survived under the NEP. As people who ...

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