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

M. Ilin's

The Story of the Five-Year Plan


1. What do We Need Most of All?

Most of all we need machines.

For every undertaking, for every factory we need machines.

But in order to make a machine, we must have metal.

And in order to make a machine go, we must have energy.

What is energy, and whence does it come? It is all around us in abundance. The force of the wind is energy. The waterfall is energy. A piece of anthracite coal is energy. A log which we throw into the stove is energy.

Wind, water, coal, wood, may not be alive, but they can be forced to work. They can be compelled to turn the wheels of machines. In Baku the wind flaps the wings of a windmill, and the windmill pumps oil from beneath the earth.

In Volkhovstroy water turns the wheels of water engines–turbines; and the turbines drive machines which produce electrical current.

In every locomotive coal boils water and transforms it into steam, and the steam drives the piston of the engine.

This means that our first task is to get energy for our machines.

2. What can the Wind Give us?

In Moscow on Voznesensky Street may be seen a peculiar building. It would not seem so queer except for a tall tower adjoining the building on the right side. This tower is square and almost windowless. On it stands another tower made of glass with a steel frame. And on the very top of the second tower like a weather-cock turns a strange contraption resembling a dying machine of unusual design. This is a department of the Central Aero-Hydraulic Institute where wind motors are invented. And what you see turning on the top of the second tower is a new windmill being tested by the Institute.

If we should build such windmills throughout the country, we would capture more energy than the whole world requires today. In time, of course, the need will greatly increase. Then, wherever strong winds blow, windmills will be established. The entire country will be covered with a net of electrical wires. And all wind electric stations, as well as others will work in this net. Windmills will be placed in regular order like figures on a chessboard. They must be placed so that one tower will not interfere with another. For wind, even as light, may cast its shadows. And if one windmill falls into the wind shadow of another, it cannot work. Special stations will be constructed to collect and conserve the energy of the wind in order that it may be used during calm weather.

But all of this is a task of future Five-Year Plans. The present plan sets the following task: to replace the old inefficient village windmills with the windmills of the Central Aero-Hydraulic Institute. And during these five years to raise the strength of all of our wind motors to 500 thousand horsepower.

3. The War with the River

To conquer the wind is a difficult task. To force water to work is yet more difficult.

Our mountains and plains are well supplied with rivers. These could give us 65 million horsepower of electrical energy. But to compel them to work for us is not so easy. Man must fight the river, as the animal-tamer fights wild beasts. If he becomes careless only for a moment, he will make a mistake; and the beast will spring upon him and tear him to pieces.

We all read and hear that on the Dnieper is being constructed a great electric station. There is not a person in the Soviet Union who has not heard of Dnieprostroy. Yet few know what a terrible and cruel struggle men wage there with the river.

It would seem to be a simple matter to build a dam across the river, to install the appropriate water turbines, and to allow the water to turn the wheels of these turbines. But this is easy to say and very difficult to do. For the dam being built on the Dnieper will be a stone wall almost one kilometer in length and as high as a many-storied building. To construct such a wall on land would not be easy. This one must be built across a great river! And the river refuses to stand still, it refuses to be quiet while it is harnessed.

4. River, Stand Back!

At Dniepprostroy operations are being conducted on "solid ground–on the naked bottom of the river. How, then, did the workers force the Dnieper to stand back? For only in a fairy story does this happen: River, stand back!

This is how they did it: they first fenced off a part of the river with temporary wooden dikes, and then with powerful pumps they removed the water from the enclosure. The bottom being laid bare, they could work on the bed of the river as on land! But the river is furious. The dike is like a bone in its throat. It is determined to wash out this obstruction, to dash into the artificial basin, to drown both people and machines! And on one occasion the river did succeed in breaking through. On the 24th of June, 1928, it suddenly demolished the lower dike. The water rushed in, and in about an hour the great basin was filled with water. The workmen had barely time to save themselves and their machines. Divers were lowered to discover what was the matter. They found that the river had washed a great hole ten meters square under the dike. With difficulty they filled this hole with sacks of straw and rubbish. Then they began to pump out the water. And this task required twenty-seven days. Twenty-seven days to repair what the water had done in one hour!

5. How the River Smashed a Steel Wall

But a yet larger misfortune occurred on the 18th of July. Work was proceeding on the dike of the right basin: a wall of steel rails was being erected next to the wooden dike. Two large cranes were at work. They worked with the speed and the precision of two giant men. A crane would pick up a single pile, lift it high into the air, lower it into place, and drive it down with a steam hammer. Then it would turn back for the next pile. About one o'clock only the pile for the last corner remained.

'And suddenly, one of the engineers relates,' a part of the steel wall gave way and began to fall into the water, snapping steel cables, pulling beams out of the dike, and dragging a railway with it. In the course of two minutes 170 meters of the wall collapsed.' With terror the workers and engineers looked on, not knowing what to do. Fortunately the entire wall did not fall; it was supported on one side by cables with which it was fastened to the dike. But on the other side the wall broke throughout almost its entire length.

Five hundred and twenty-seven piles fell into the water–five hundred tons of steel!

And how much labor was lost!

Why did this happen?

Because the steel piles stood on a sharp incline, and not on a hat surface, on the bed of the river. To push them off this incline was not difficult for the power of the water.

Men endeavored to fence themselves from the river by a steel wall, but the river pushed this wall over as if it had been an old fence.

To repair what the river had done this time was much more difficult than before. The submerged steel wall had to be raised from the bottom of the river. But it weighed five hundred tons. How could such a weight be lifted? It was decided to cut the wall into pieces under the water and to take it out in parts.

6. Fire Under the Water

To cut steel, and under the water at that! No one at Dnieprostroy knew how to do it. Autogenic welders were imported from Leningrad. The autogenic welder cuts, not with a knife and not with a saw, but with a gas flame. This flame is most remarkable: it burns through steel and is not extinguished by water.

Divers descended to the bottom of the Dnieper with lighted burners and set to work cutting the steel wall. This work took several days. Cables were then attached to the piles and eleven capstans were placed on the rim of the basin.

Thus in pieces the wall was dragged out of the river. This work required fully two months. Not until the 10th of September was the steel wall again in position so that the water could be pumped out of the enclosure.

7. Three Days' Work for One Kopeck

What will Dnieprostroy give us when the river is finally conquered?

First, six turbines and then four more will be installed on the Dnieper. And every turbine will possess 90,000 horsepower! Ultimately Dnieprostroy will give us 900,000 horsepower.

The strength of one man may be reckoned as one twentieth of a horsepower. This means that Dnieprostroy will give us 18 million mechanical workers. And these mechanical workers will labor for little pay.

Do you know at what rate electrical energy will be sold at Dnieprostroy? At the rate of one kopeck for one kilowatt-hour. But what is a kilowatt-hour? It is approximately three days' work of a strong man.

One kopeck for three days' work. This is what each mechanical worker will cost us at Dnieprostroy! This means that it is profitable to build hydroelectric stations. And we shall build them.

We already have five large hydro-electric stations at work: Volkhov (near Leningrad), Zemo Avchalsky, Erivan, Lenin (all three in the Caucasus), and Kondoposh (in Karelia). They give us 110 thousand horsepower.

There are six great hydro-electric stations under construction: Dnieprostroy, Svirsky, Pionsky, GizelDonsky, and Dzoragatsky. We shall soon begin work on three large stations in the Caucasus and Middle Asia. But how many smaller stations have been constructed and will be constructed! And all of our hydro-electric stations will save for us between three and four million tons of coal every year.