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

M. Ilin's

The Story of the Five-Year Plan


1. The Museum of the Future

There are museums of the past in which are preserved relics found in excavations. In huge glass cases, as if in coffins, quietly sleep stone weapons, bronze hammers, wooden chariots, fragile vases, precious stones with delicate carvings. Then there are other museums, the museums of the present.

Heretofore there have been no museums of the future.

But now there is such a museum. Go to Leningrad, to Fontanka, to Chernishov Bridge. There you will see a great building, made of gray stone. Mount the stairs, secure a pass from the official. With this pass go boldly forward.

In the first hall you will see a hundred drafting tables.

Perhaps there are more. On each table there are great sheets of paper, mathematical instruments, compasses, pencils, triangles, and drawing pens. Behind the tables, standing and sitting, draftsmen are at work. A whole army of draftsmen. From above through a glass roof a pale white light falls upon the drawings.

But you are not yet in the museum. Go farther. The museum is to the left, behind the little door.

Enter, but be careful. If you should set your foot on the first hills of the Urals, you would crush the Nizhne-Tagilsky Factory, you would destroy a railroad embankment.

On the floor before you is a vast relief map, a portion of the globe greatly reduced. Green hills of paper-mache, a tiny bridge over railways, factory buildings of cardboard, and a little sign alongside The Nizhne-Tagilsky Factory.

Proceeding cautiously around this factory, go still farther. Presently you will come to Kazakstan. Take care lest you stumble over the little table standing near the wall, and break the Ridersky lead-zinc mine.

This mine is made entirely of glass. If you light an electric lamp underneath, you will see at once all the floors, all the underground galleries, pumps for the removal of water, shafts for the raising of ore and workers, shafts for ventilation. It is all represented with crayon on glass plates–as many plates as there are doors.

From Kazakstan go back to the Urals. But on the way stop and look at the two-story house of a workers' village. This structure stands on a high pedestal in the center of the room. In order that you may better see what is going on, the wall is missing on one side. The rooms are light and clean. On the beds are pillows and blankets. And a whole room is no longer than a pencil and would fit into your pocket.

Let us go farther. On a wall is a large picture. A metallurgical factory. A battery of coke ovens. Above the ovens are clumsy coal towers, like the towers of a prison. Blast-furnaces with inclined steel bridges. Beyond is a city radiating from a center as if it were placed on the green ridges of a huge fan. And beneath it is a little sign–Magnitogorsky Factory.

With such pictures all the walls of the museum are covered. Here is the Telbesky Factory, and the Dnieper Union, and the Stalingrad Tractor Factory, and the Rostov Agricultural Machine Factory.

But the most interesting project of all is enclosed under glass cases which lie on the tables. In these cases are preserved the drawings and plans of factories which we are now building. The thick black folders contain complex sketches, calculations, figures, figures, figures.

If there were no figures, there would be no factories.

All the drawings, of course, are not here, only the most important ones. For Magnitogorsky Factory alone 30,000 sheets of drawings were prepared. But what kind of museum is this? What is its name? This is the museum of the State Institute for the Projection of New Metal Factories.

From morning till night work goes on in the Institute. Thousands of engineers calculate, draw, then calculate again. Here are builders of houses and builders of ships, experts on coal and experts on steel, mining engineers, river engineers, aeronautic engineers. Last year they prepared estimates for 107 factories; this year they are working on 170 factories. And these are not small enterprises. There are giants among them. For the workers of each of these giants, not villages, but whole cities, with thousands of houses and tens of streets, will have to be built. Nine of the largest factories will produce iron. Although there are only nine of them, they will produce more iron than all the old factories put together. There are seven somewhat smaller factories. They will build tractors, automobiles, cars, combines, turbines, electric motors. These are only the very largest. How many others there are! And they were all born in the museum of the future. In comparison with each of these factories, the structure on Fontanka in which the museum is housed is a small building. But really is much space needed for human though? Important inventions have been born in the human brain and written down on scraps of paper. All the important laws of physics and chemistry can be written in one book and put into a pocket. But knowing these laws, man erects great buildings, crushes mountains, digs cities under the ground.

2. Why Giants?

But why giants? All we hear is factory giant, sovkhoz [state farm] giant. Has everybody gone crazy over giants, or what? Perhaps small factories are more profitable. This should be proved. We should take nothing on faith.

Why, then, do we need giant enterprises?

3. When the Multiplication Table Should not be Used

Solve the following problem. There are two factories. One is a hundred times as productive as the other. The small factory burns eighty kilograms of coal an hour. How much coal does the large factory burn?

I know what you will do. You will take 80 and multiply it by 100. The result is 8000. The answer is, then, 8000 kilograms an hour.

Is this true? False. Entirely false.

The large factory burns only 1000 kilograms an hour.

How is this?


But the multiplication table!

The multiplication table has nothing to do with the matter. Here the multiplication table cannot be used. The fact is that the large factory is equipped with a great steam engine of two thousand horsepower. And the small factory depends on a little engine of only twenty horsepower. The large engine is one hundred times stronger, but it is not one hundred times larger, and not one hundred times taller. Also it requires, not one hundred times more coal, but only twelve times more. The large engine is consequently more profitable than the small one.

4. Hands for Kilograms: Cranes for Tons

In both the small factory and the large factory loads must be transported from place to place. But where the large factory handles tons, the small factory handles kilograms. For kilograms hands are sufficient, but for tons lifting cranes are necessary.

To install lifting cranes in a small shop would be foolish. If you wish to move something in your room, you just pick it up and go. You would not think of transferring books from table to shelf with a crane.

In a large factory it is a different matter. There without a crane you are as if you had no hands. If you carry everything yourself, how much labor and time are lost! And sometimes, puff as much as you will, you cannot lift the load.

The large factory is, therefore, more profitable because lifting cranes and all kinds of improvements can be utilized.

5. Legs for Meters: Locomotives for Kilometers

And distances! A small factory can be covered in five minutes. A large factory is sometimes as big as a whole city. In a small factory no one counts his steps. In a large factory try just once to push a little car from one end to the other.

Obviously here it pays to lay ties and rails and to install locomotives, electric motors, and electric cars. Legs for meters: locomotives for kilometers.

6. When a Thousand is Better than Two Thousand

This means clearly that from whatever side you approach the matter, the large factory is the more profitable. It can afford both larger and better machines.

But there is yet one additional feature of the large factory which every one does not see. In it there is more order and less confusion, and every one has his own special task. One sharpens an instrument, another works with it. One drives in the bolts, another screws on the burs.

In the large factory things come running to the workmen. Everywhere there are moving belts, ball-bearing tracks, elevated roads, revolving tables, inclined troughs, spiral stairs, and lifting machines. Objects fly upward, drop downward, run up to the ceiling, fall from one door to the next. Men stand still, but things move.

In the large factory the work is better organized. There a thousand men accomplish more than two thousand scattered through many small factories.

On our front of factories and mills we shall go into battle with large detachments, with closed ranks. Proper organization, unanimity, discipline–these will give us the victory.

7. What does Clement Say?

Clement is an American engineer. At one time he was a consultant in our iron and steel industry. He is one of the most experienced American metallurgists at present, an expert on metals.

He was invited to the Soviet Union in order to give us the benefit of his experience and knowledge. What, then, does he say?

He tells us that, in spite of the fact that we have a few old factories, our metallurgy is in its infancy; that our metallurgy has not yet even been born; that we are fortunate in being able to build from the beginning.

What does he mean?

How can he say that we are fortunate because we have no factories?

What kind of an idea is this? Is Engineer Clement making fun of us, or what?

No, he speaks seriously. And he is right. It is better to build anew than to reconstruct ancient enterprises. In that same America from which he comes there are many old factories with antiquated machines. These factories work less efficiently than the new ones. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to abandon them, because many millions of dollars have been put into them.

We are building our industry from the bottom. We can construct everything in the light of the very latest word in technology. Our factories will, therefore, be equipped with the newest, the strongest, and the best machines.

We build on a vacant lot.

Well, what of it? There we can build according to a plan.

8. Where the Kazak Used to Wander

'Magnetic Mountain. It is really not one, but four mountains. From its base stretches the steppe. Here may be seen the summer hut of the wandering Kirgis. Here also lies iron ore in huge chunks three or four meters long, two meters wide, and two meters thick. It is of excellent quality, almost free of foreign admixtures, and is refined in the Beloretsky Factory. During a whole year the factory can scarcely refine what is mined in two or three weeks. Enormous reserves of ore remain untouched.'

This is an excerpt from a book on geography, published many years before the revolution.

Now, at the foot of Magnetic Mountain, where not so long ago Kazaks wandered with their herds, a huge metallurgical factory is being built.

In the old Beloretsky Factory there were 1700 workers.

In Magnitogorsky Factory there will be 6000 workers.

The difference is not so great.

But in the old factory there were only 24,000 mechanical workers (1200 horsepower). In Magnitogorsky there will be 1,600,000 (80,000 horsepower). The new factory will thus have almost seventy times as many mechanical helpers. This is the difference between the factories built before the revolution and those which are being constructed now.

What will the army of mechanical soldiers do at Magnitogorsky Factory? What will be their task? To take Magnetic Mountain, consisting almost entirely of iron ore, and convert it into steel rails, beams, plates, and rods.

How is this to be done?

9. A Mountain Which will be Eaten up

Atach Mountain is one of the four peaks of Magnetic Mountain. On its slopes terraces are hewed out. Every terrace is eight meters high.

Along the terraces rails are laid over which electric trains move backward and forward. Here excavators work and load into cars the ore which is mined. This is the future Magnitogorsky Mine. As yet the mountain is not being eaten up. But soon workers will come with drills and dynamite, and Atach will shake from heavy blows.

What is that noise? Where are the cannon firing? People will say.

No, they will be told, that is not the discharge of cannon. It is the dynamiting of ore on Atach Mountain.

Great iron beasts will eat up a huge mountain. Piece by piece, from terrace to terrace, they will gather up the ore. Lower and lower will the top of the mountain fall, deeper and deeper will the terraces eat into its body. Ton by ton the mountain will be dragged into the factory. And there in the flaming bowels of blast-furnaces crude ore will be smelted into iron and steel to be used in the building of our country.

10. Pies of Coal and Ore

When ore is mined, it comes out in large and small chunks. The latter are not suited for the blast-furnace. If they should be thrown into the furnace, they would fill all the crevices among the large pieces and would thus extinguish the fire. The result is the same as if we poured coal powder instead of coal into the chimney of a samovar.

But what is to be done with the small pieces of ore? Shall we throw them away as formerly? No, we shall not do this, because they are not rubbish, but good iron. We make the rounds of yards collecting iron scraps. Iron is bread to us. Why, then, should we throw it out?

We must think of something else. We must find a way of converting small pieces into large ones.

And such a method has already been discovered. Out of small pieces of ore we shall bake pies. The small pieces we shall mix with coal dust and bake them in large cups. The coal will burn up and the ore will fuse together–into black pies. These pies will be put into a tub, and the tub will be sent over an inclined iron way to the very top of a tower. There the tub will turn over and pour the stack of pies straight into the mouth of a giant blastfurnace.

11. An Unheard-of Machine

In one of the Leningrad papers the following item appeared recently:

'In the factories of Yugostal there will be installed a "blooming" furnace which has a productivity never before heard of in the U.S.S.R.'

What a guess! It is a thousand miles off. This machine is not a furnace at all. Nor does it even look like a furnace. And if as yet we do not all know what it is, that is because we have few machines, few factories. But within five years from now, not only a newspaper reporter, but also any school child will know what it is.

What, then, is this blooming machine?

It is not a furnace, but a mill which makes long thin strips out of short heavy chunks of steel–rails and beams for construction. In the open-hearth section of the factory pig iron is converted into thick steel moulds or ingots. These moulds must be stretched.

And how are we to do this?

We must roll the moulds between cylinders like noodles under a rolling-pin.

And this is precisely what the blooming mill does.

A blooming mill is a large, heavy apparatus. A little electric carrier picks up a red-hot ingot, approaches the mill, and deposits it upon a ball-bearing path. The balls of this path begin to turn, and the mould goes directly into the jaws of a pair of cylinders. As it passes between the cylinders, it is flattened and stretched lengthwise. It is then turned on its side and sent back into the machine again.

Back and forth, back and forth, rapidly the ingot is tossed, turned, stretched, and squeezed.

Within two minutes the ingot grows thin and takes on the form of a flaming serpent. From a thick chunk of steel only a meter and a half in length, it has been stretched until it is now almost twenty meters long.

And above on his captain's bridge stands the operator who directs the machine. How small he is! Yet he does everything. He plays with flaming ingots of steel as a juggler plays with rubber balls. And his hands are not burned. In two minutes the ingot passes back and forth through the jaws of the mill fifteen times. And it weighs several tons.

This is the kind of machine which we shall have in our metallurgical factories.