Christian Rakovsky

On the Five Year Plan


From The Militant, Vol. V No. 10 (Whole No. 106), 5 March 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We are bringing below a chapter from a larger work by comrade Rakovsky. Although the figures cited have, in part, grown antiquated and, in part, been surpassed, this work is nevertheless of exceptional significance. For the first time problems which facilitate a Marxist examination of the results of the five year plan and of the process of development in the Soviet Union are raised and subjected to a thorough analysis.

Christian Georgevitch Rakovsky is one of the most prominent personalities in the international revolutionary movement, with a record of versatile activities and of participation in the revolutionary movements of several countries behind him. He is now 59 years old. 42 years of his life – ever since 1889 – he has spent in the revolutionary working class movement. Hailing from Dobruja (formerly Bulgaria, later Rumania), he still enjoys the greatest degree of confidence on the part of the Balkan proletariat. In the years 1905–1907 he founded the Rumanian socialist party and trade unions. During the war he participated in the Zimmerwald conference. The Russian revolution liberated him from imprisonment in Rumania. Since then, he occupied some of the most important positions in the civil war. Elected president of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, he remains at this post for four years, when he is sent to hostile England as the Soviet Ambassador to that country. From this post he is transferred to that of Ambassador to France. Wherever he goes, he remains faithful to his revolutionary internationalism. He showed himself prepared to exchange his position as Ambassador for the life of an exile when he saw the leadership of the C.P. of the Soviet Union deviating from the Marxist line. Ever since 1928, he has been living in exile, at first in Astrakhan. Physicians pointed out that Rakovsky would not, at his age, be able to bear the life of an exile, that he was doomed to physical destruction there. After this, Stalin deported him to Barnoul in Siberia! Stalin knows that the frightful cold and the general climate of that place will destroy this fighter physically. Every sincere worker must raise his voice against these shameful deeds. Rakovsky must become the model of the revolutionary youth that flocks to proletarian internationalism. The campaign of physical destruction conducted by Stalin against the Bolshevik-Leninists cannot destroy the ideas of the Left Opposition. In spite of everything, they are forging ahead and penetrating the masses of Communist workers. – Ed.

* * * *

The extraordinarily strong quantitative increase in production over that of last year is absolutely indisputable. The gross value of heavy industry for three quarters of this year (1930) amounted to 11,705 million Rubles (prices remaining equal) as against 91,374 million Rubles for the past year. This is an increase of 27.4 per cent. Although this increase is 3.7 per cent lower than that prescribed by the plan, it is nevertheless to be considered as exceptionally high. This would be sufficient ground for optimism, were we to stop with the mere mention of the fact, without going into an analysts of the accompanying circumstances and phenomena which are bound up with this rise in the quantitative co-efficients. I have already pointed out that a growth in the quantity figures themselves does not represent an adequate criterion for the evaluation of the actual growth of the productive forces, nor even for determining the existence of any such growth in general. A genuine yardstick for the increase of the forces of production, and consequently, a guarantee for further raising the quantity figures, can be given by the following three factors: (1) the basis upon which these quantity figures have been achieved; (2) the relationship between the quantity and the quality coefficients; (3) the measure of accumulation and extension of industrial capital.

Two main types of increases in the quantity figures are possible: (1) an increase on the basis of the extension of investment capital, which is generally connected with a rise in the productivity of labor (in the Marxist sense of the word: i.e., an increase in the product of labor, figured per person, on the basis of the transition of industry to a higher level); (2) an increase on the basis of the old figure for investment capital (and consequently on the old technical basis) at the cost of its more intensive exploitation. In the latter case, a rise in the quantity figures is generally bound up with an increase in the intensity of labor and with a relatively big growth of the labor forces. In practice, both these methods of increasing the quantity figures generally go hand in hand, and the task before us consists of determining the share of each. An exact calculation of this is hardly possible (in any case it is impossible on the basis of the material I have at hand) so that it becomes necessary to employ a series of indirect indices which, in my opinion, suffice to give a general conception of the state of affairs. It is indisputable that in the course of the last year a certain extension of industrial investment capital has taken place regardless of the non-fulfillment of the plan in the main fields of production and regardless of the insufficient amortization. It is indisputable that this is also the case in the course of the present year, so that an increase of quantity has, to a certain extent, taken place also on the basis. But when we approach this question from the other end we are easily convinced that, in reality, the rise in quantity has taken place on the basis of the methods of the second order. We have, above all, an enormous increase in the burden borne by the old investment capital through of the introduction of the uninterrupted working week and the increase in work shifts ...

According to the control figures, the increase in the labor product per worker should have “supported itself only in a very slight measure on a rise in the intensity of labor”. In practice this has worked out differently. Already in the first half year the number of workers increased 14.3 per cent in comparison with the same period of the past year. The increase in the number of workers surpassed the assumptions of the plan more than fourfold. In so far as the increase in the labor product per worker is concerned, that amounted in the first half year to about 18–19 per cent instead of the 25.3 percent prescribed by the plan. If we could determine with precision to what extent this increase in the product of labor took place at the cost of improvement in the technical basis and to what extent at the cost of a rise in the intensity of labor, that would, of course, throw even more light on the subject. But at present we can only give an approximate calculation on the basis of the figures cited above. The introduction of the five-day week, in connection with uninterrupted work in the factory, signifies in itself an increase in the working time of the factory equipment amounting to 1/6 or 16.6 per cent. If within these three quarters of the year about 50 per cent of the workers, that is, about ½ of the industry went over to the ftve day week, then this increased exploitation of investment capital alone must have brought with it an increase in production of about 8–9 per cent. The increase in work shifts must have brought an increase of 1–2 per cent. The increase in the number of workers tended in the same direction; since it took place in a considerable measure at the cost of an increase in unskilled workers, that meant an opportunity for the skilled workers to better exploit the equipment. Finally, when we take into consideration the fact that the transition to uninterrupted work in the factories meant the automatic abolition of a series of idle periods for equipment of a purely technical character, then it is probably not far from the truth to assume that 15 per cent of the increase in production is to be attributed to the introduction of the five-day week, the increase in the work shifts and the growth in the number of workers; in other words, to the rise in the intensity of the exploitation of the equipment. [1]

The remaining 12 percent are to be attributed to the increase in the productivity of labor, to the increase in the intensity of labor and to the extension of investment capital. As we shall see further on, the lion’s share must be attributed to the increase in the intensity of labor, which diminishes the specific weight of the influence of the two other factors with regard to the quantitative growth proportionally. I repeat that this calculation (I had to leave a whole series of details out of consideration) is only approximate but it is sufficiently exact to permit at least one conclusion with regard to the growth in quantity; the growth in quantity was produced, in a decisive measure, not at the cost of an increase in investment capital and not at the cost of an improvement of the technical basis, but at the cost of a more intensive exploitation of the investment capital that was at hand, with the increase in the number of workers on the one hand and the rise in the intensity of labor on the other. But such a method of increasing the quantity bears within its bosom the precondition for a breakdown, not to mention the fact that it in no way guarantees a further quantitative rise in industry. This method of increasing quantity very rapidly clashes with its own natural boundaries. Neither the intensive exploitation of the machine nor the intensification of labor can be increased endlessly. This sort of method has another meaning entirely – and that too, from an economic point of view – when it is applied only for a short period of time and when, parallel with its application, the possibility is given to create within just as short a period of time, the material basis: a new investment capital. [2] But this same fact, that such a method must be seized upon and that it is elevated into a system, is precisely the proof for the fact that we are far behind with the creation of the material basis. The measure of depression in the working class with whose aid Centrism hopes to make up for lost time, further proves how great this backwardness is. The essence of the present situation consists precisely in this fact, that it has indisputably become evident that this backwardness cannot be liquidated within a short time merely with the aid of the internal resources of the country. Before I go over to a consideration of this question I still want to deal with three factors which prove from different angles and in different ways that with regard to the increase in quantity we have arrived very closely to the boundary, beyond which a further growth on the given basis is impossible.

The first and most important of these factors is the quality of production. It suffices to pick up anyone of our papers to become convinced that in this regard the situation is catastrophic. Neither agitation nor administrative measures, nor measures of a jurdical character have been able to put a halt to the process of the deterioration of the quality. The facts are sufficiently well known so that I will only confine myself to a few of the most obvious examples.

(To Be Continued)


1. Data regarding several isolated undertakings and branches show that these figures are actually even considerably higher.

2. Such a method can be dictated for example by a condition of war when the questions of reproduction generally recede to the background.

Last updated on 20.5.2013