Marxists Internet Archive: Subjects: Marxism and Art: Literature: Children's Literature

M. Ilin's

The Story of the Five-Year Plan


1. The Project of Our Country

The Five-Year Plan is a project: not of one factory, but of two thousand four hundred factories. And not only of factories, but also of cities, of electric stations, of bridges, of ships, of railroads, of mines, of state farms, of rural communes, of schools, of libraries. It is a project for the rebuilding of our whole country, and was prepared, not by one man of by two men, but by thousands of trained persons. To the work of building came not tens, but millions of workers. All of us will help to build the Five-Year Plan.

The plan was first discussed in December, 1927, at the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party.

On the 1st of October, 1928, its fulfillment was begun.

And before the end of 1929 it became clear that the plan will be achieved, not in five years, but much more quickly.

Such a project has never been undertaken before. America has many large factories, many more than we have. The factories turn out four automobiles a minute; there some buildings are sixty stories high; there a huge steel bridge was recently constructed in one day; there a million tractors work in the fields. The Americans are proud of their machines, of their factories.

But how do these factories work? According to some general plan, do you suppose? No, they work without a general plan.

2. What Happens When They Work Without a Plan

Mr. Fox acquires money –one million dollars. But money must not remain idle. Mr. Fox looks through newspapers, he consults friends, he employs agents. From morning till night the agents comb the city, look about, and make inquires. What is to be done with the money of Mr. Fox?

At last a business is found. Hats! That is what one should make. Hats sell; men get rich.

There is nothing to hesitate about. Mr. Fox builds a hat factory.

The same idea occurs at the same time to Mr. BOX, and Mr. Crox, and Mr. Nox. And they all begin to build hat factories simultaneously.

Within half a year there are several new hat factories in the country. Shops are filled to the ceiling with hat-boxes. Storerooms are bursting with them. Everywhere there are posters, signs, advertisements: HATS, HATS, HATS. A great many more hats are made than are needed twice as many, three times as many. And the factories continue to work at full speed.

And here something happens that neither Mr. Fox, nor Mr. Box, nor Mr. Nox, nor Mr. Crox anticipated. The public stops buying hats. Mr. Nox lowers his price twenty cents; Mr. Crox, forty cents; Mr. Fox sells hats at a loss in order to get rid of them. But business grows worse and worse.

In all of the papers advertisements appear:


Mr. Box offers to sell hats on a three-year installment plan.

Mr. Nox announces a sale:


But this does not help. Mr. Fox lowers the wages of his workers one dollar a week. Mr. Cox lowers the wages two dollars a week. Again business grows worse and worse.

All at once–STOP! Mr. FOX closes his factory. Two thousand workers are discharged and permitted to go wherever they please. The following day the factory of Mr. Nox stops. In a week practically all hat factories are standing idle. Thousands of workers are without work. New machines grow rusty. Buildings are sold for wreckage.

A year or two pass. The hats bought from Nox, Fox, Box, and Crox wear out. The public once more begins to buy hats. Hat stores become empty. From the top shelves dusty cartons are taken down. There are not enough hats. Prices on hats go up.

And now, not Mr. Fox, but a certain Mr. Doodle thinks of a profitable business–the building of a hat factory. The same idea also enters the heads of other wise and business-like people–Mr. Poodle, Mr. Foodle, and Mr. Noodle. And the old story begins over again.

The experience with hats is repeated with shoes, with sugar, with pig iron, with coal, with kerosene. Factories are blown up like soap bubbles and burst. One would think that people had lost their minds.

3. A Mad Country

On the 1st of September, 1920, a train left Washington: a locomotive and thirty cars. The cars were loaded to the top with watermelons. The melons were ripe and sound, and every one cost twenty-five cents–fifty kopecks in our money. The train went rapidly northward.

On the bank of the Potomac River, where the track passes along a cliff, the train stopped. Workers bustled about near one of the cars.

And all at once splash, splash! One melon fell into the water, a second, a third. A whole stream of melons rushed over the cliff into the river below. They jumped like croquet balls, collided, and broke into bits. Near the shore in the water a raft of melons was formed–a green floating island. And the melons continued to come. The first car was followed by a second, the second by a third. The work went on efficiently: a car in two minutes: thirty cars in an hour.

The locomotive blew the whistle, the people jumped aboard and the train disappeared. Slowly the watermelons floated with the current down the Potomac River.

I did not invent this story. If you do not believe it, get a book called 'The Tragedy of Waste,' written by Stuart Chase. He is an American and a member of the staff of the Labor Bureau in New York City. You will find the tale about the watermelons on page 193.

This book tells us many other interesting things:

'In 1920 thousands of gallons of milk were poured into the rivers and creeks of southern Illinois.'

'In October, l921, placards were placed along the highways in the Middle-Western States advising the farmers to burn corn instead of coal.'

'On June 24, 1924, the New York World announced: "Thousands of packages of cucumbers and other fresh vegetables were dumped on the offal dock today."'

'Every few years a large percentage of the Maine potato crop is left to rot in the ground.'

And here is the very latest dispatch from the newspapers:

'In the Western States again, as in 1921, grain is being burned in place of fuel.'

On the cotton plantations they breed a weevil which destroys the cotton crop.

Automobile manufacturers spend millions of dollars for the purchase and destruction of used automobiles. Steamship companies wreck hundreds of the latest steamships.

What does this mean? Have people lost their senses, or what is the matter? The burning of corn, the spilling of milk, the destruction of automobiles, the wrecking of steamships–why is this done? Who profits by it?

It is profitable to the Foxes and the Boxes. Mr. Fox burns a few train-loads of grain in order to raise the price of corn. Mr. Box gives orders to spill tens of thousands of bottles of milk into the river in order that milk may not be sold too cheaply. And in the mean time school physicians in New York report that one out of every four children in the city is undernourished.

In a country boasting millions of machines, storerooms are bursting with goods; corn is burned in place of coal; milk is poured into the river. And at the very same time in this very same country, thousands of people go hungry.

Americans say with pride: 'Every American worker has two hundred and thirty mechanical slaves.' If we count the number of machines in the country and the number of workers they replace, then this statement is true.

Why, then, if this is so, are millions of American citizens in need of the most essential things? What is the matter here?

The matter is that all these mechanical slaves, all these magnificent machines, belong, not to all Americans, but only to a very few. Just one 'automobile king,' Ford, owns sixty automobile factories in America and twenty-eight in other countries. He has his own railroads, his own steamships, his own mines, his own forests, his own mountains, his own rivers! If all of the workers in his factories with their families were brought together and put into one place, they would make a city with a population of three million persons. This is as if all Moscow and half of Leningrad in addition worked for one man.

Because one man owns the machines, millions must work for him.

4. The U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A.

Every American worker has two hundred and thirty mechanical helpers: every Soviet worker has only twenty.

But among us the mechanical helpers belong, not to Mr. Fox, and not to Mr. Box, but to the workers. And this at once changes the whole situation. Workers do not wish to break up automobiles: they do not wish to pour milk into the river, to burn corn in place of coal, to destroy sacks of cucumbers. Workers understand that automobiles, milk, corn, and cucumbers represent labor. They know that, if there is to be an automobile, some one must make it. Why, then, should labor and time be expended in vain?

We have a plan.
In America they work without a plan.
We have a seeding campaign.
In America they destroy crops.
We increase production.
In America they reduce production and increase unemployment.
We make what is essential.
In America hundreds of factories consume raw materials and energy in order to make what is altogether unnecessary.

Stuart Chase says: 'We drown in a sea of things which we do not use, which we lose, which get out of style, which we give to friends and which they do not need, which disappear somewhere; fountain pens, cigar lighters, cheap rings, razors, endless trinkets, gew-gaws. We destroy mountains of good iron ore and an endless quantity of horse power in order in a few months to fill rubbish cans with them.'

And how much money is spent for advertisement!

To read all of the advertisements which appear on one day in the American newspapers would require five hundred years. In picturesque places along the highways great colored placards are set up. At the edge of a beautiful forest you are urged to buy 'Smith's Tooth Paste'; on the crest of a famous mountain you are greeted by a sign extolling the virtues of 'Kickapoo Indian Sagwa.' In the evening, cities are hooded with the light of innumerable electric signs and inscriptions. The roof of the Cleveland Company in a certain American city carries the advertisement: 'This sign burns more electricity than a whole city.

Millions of tons of raw materials and fuel, millions of working days, are consumed in order to force people to buy what they do not need. Human labor is dissipated and expended for nothing.

And this happens because the mechanical slaves are the property of Mr. Fox and Mr. Box, and not of the workers. What these gentlemen make, if they only make money, is a matter of complete indifference to them.

For what purpose does Mr. Fox build a hat factory? Is it really in order to make hats? Not at all, but rather to make money. To him every factory is a money factory, a profits factory.

And for Mr. Fox and Mr. Box a worker is not a worker, not a man, but a machine for making profits. Of an ordinary machine made of iron and steel they take good care and do not overload it with work, because it costs too much money. But since a human machine in an American factory costs nothing, it is always overloaded with work. If it wears out or loses its strength–away with it. Others can be had.

Stuart Chase says that after his fortieth birthday a worker is no longer wanted in a factory. At that age the American worker is an old man.

In America the machine is not a helper to the worker, not a friend, but an enemy. Every new machine, every new invention, throws out upon the streets thousands of workers. In glass factories one person now makes three thousand bottles an hour. In former times such a task required seventy-seven men. This means that each machine for the making of bottles deprives seventy-six men of employment. And the American worker despises the machine which takes away his bread.

A certain American writer says: 'Machines breed and multiply: there are more and more of them. We ourselves have nurtured them, but now they surround us like wild and dangerous beasts. And we are in their power.

But how is it with us? The more machines we have, the easier will be the work, the shorter will be the working day, the lighter and happier will be the lives of all.

We build factories in order that there may be no poverty, no filth, no sickness, no unemployment, no exhausting labor–in order that life may be rational and just. We build factories in order that we may have as many mechanical helpers as possible machines in order that these mechanical helpers may belong to all and work for all equally. We build in our country a new, an unheard-of, a socialistic order.