Leon Trotsky

Soviet Economy in Danger

The Situation on the Eve of the Second Five Year Plan

(October 1932)

Written: 22 October 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 47, 19 November 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

(Continued from last issue)

But the results obtained, no matter how imposing if taken by themselves – even if considered from the bald quantitative viewpoint – are far short of those sketched in the plan.

The output of coal is maintained at present on the level of last year, therefore it has far from reached the plan figures set for the third year of the Five Year Plan. “The Donbas lags behind at the tail-end of the most backward branches of Soviet industry”, complains Pravda. “The tension in the fuel balance is on the increase,” echoes For the Industrialization (October 8, 1932).

In 1931 there were produced 4.9 million tons of cast iron instead of 7.9 million set by the plan; 5.3 million tons of steel instead of the 8.8 million; and finally 4 million tons of rolled steel instead of 6.7 million. In comparison with 1930 this signifies a falling off in cast iron of 2 percent; in steel of 6 percent; in rolled steel of 10 percent.

For 9 months of 1932 there were produced 4.5 million tons of cast iron, 4.1 million tons of steel, 3.5 million tons of rolled stock. Alongside of the considerable rise in the output of iron (new blast-furnaces!) the production of steel and rolled steel in the current year remains approximately on the level of last year. From the viewpoint of the general tasks of the industrialization what decides, of course, is not the raw iron but the rolled stock and steel.

Side by side with these quantitative results, which Economic Life characterizes as “shocking lapses” there are to be placed extremely unfavorable and, because of their consequences, much more dangerous lapses in quality. Following the special economic press, Pravda openly confesses that in heavy metallurgy “the situation as regards the indices of quality is impermissible.”

“The defective products eat up the steel that is up to quality.”

“The technical coefficients in the vise of the equipment are taking a sharp turn for the worse.”

“The cost of production of commodities is rising sharply.”

Two figures will suffice: in 1931 a ton of iron cost 35 roubles; in the first half of the current year the cost came to 60 roubles.

In 1929–1930, 47 thousand tons of copper were smelted; in 1931, 48 thousand tons, one-third of the amount set by the plan. For the current year the plan has been lowered to 90 thousand tons but for the first 8 months less than 30 thousand tons have been smelted. What this means in the manufacture of machines in general and of electro-technical equipment in particular, requires no commentaries.

In the sphere of electrification, with all its successes, there is considerable lagging behind; the power plants in August delivered 71 percent of the energy they were supposed to develop. For the Industrialization writes about “the inept, illiterate and the uncultured exploitation of the erected power stations.” Great difficulties are being threatened in the winter in the sphere of power production. They have already begun in the Moscow and Leningrad regions.

The light industry which lagged excessively behind the plan last year, showed a rise in the first half of the current year of 16 percent but in the third quarter it fell below the figures of last year. The industry providing foodstuffs occupies the last place. The supplementary production of products for mass consumption which are supplied by the plants of heavy industries compose for the eight months only 35 percent of the yearly stipulation. It is not possible at present to estimate what part of this mass of commodities that are improvised in a hurry, really meets the requirements of the market.

The factories are supplied with coal and raw material by means of bursts of telegram-lightnings. The industry, as Economic Life puts it, “sits on lightning.” But even bolts of lightning cannot deliver what does not exist.

Coal, hastily mined and poorly sorted, hampers the operation of coke producing enterprises. Excessively high content of moisture and cinders in the coke not only reduces the quantity of produced metal by millions of tons but also lowers its quality. Machines of poor metal produce inferior products, result in breakdowns, force inactivity upon the working hands, and deteriorate rapidly.

In the Urals, the paper apprize us, “the blast-furnaces are in fever”, because of inadequate supply of fuel they are allowed to cool down from 3 days to 20 days. Here is a circumstance illuminating to the highest degree: the metallurgical plants in the Urals had their own horse convoys for the transportation of fuel; in February of this year the horses numbered 27,000, the number fell in July to 14,000; and in September to 4,000. The reason for it is lack of fodder.

Pravda characterizes in the following manner the condition of the Stalingrad tractor factory in which the quantity of annual castings fell from 250 to 140 tons (query – thousands?):

“The equipment, due to the absence of rudimentary and constant technical supervision ... has excessively deteriorated.”

“Defective products have become as high as 35 percent.”

“The entire mechanism of the corporation is wallowing in dirt.”

“In the foundries there is never a thought of the next day.”

“Methods of handicraft are swamping continuous belt production.”

Why is production lowered in light metallurgy in the face of colossal investments? Because, replies Pravda, “the separate branches of a single combine are not coordinated with one another in their capacity.” And in the meantime the task of coordinating branches has been solved by capitalist technology. And how much more and difficult is the question of intercoordination independent enterprises and entire branches of industry!

“The cement factory in Podolsk is in dangerous straits”, writes For the Industrialization: “In the first half year the production program was fulfilled approximately 60 percent, in the last months the fulfillment dropped to 40 percent ... The basic costs are twice as high as those set by the plan.”

The characteristics cited above apply in various degrees to the entire present industry.

(To Be Continued)

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Last updated on: 6 February 2015