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

M. Ilin's

The Story of the Five-Year Plan


1. What Machines are Most Essential?

Metal for machines we shall have.

Energy for machines we shall have also.

But what machines are we going to construct?

We shall need all kinds of machines. Many machines. For every type of work a machine has been invented. There are machines that sew boots, machines that weave, machines that churn butter, machines that make paper, machines that count, machines that make machines.

There are tens of thousands of machines. But which of them are most essential?

The most essential machines are the machines that make machines. The reason for this is quite clear: if we have these machines, we can have all the others also. If we have blacksmith, locksmith, and lathe-making shops; if we have drillers, grinders, and polishers, then we shall be able to make any machine for any factory.

And this is the main thing.

Up to the present time we have had few such machines. We have had automobiles, but we have had no machines which make automobiles. We have had tractors, but we have had no machines which make tractors. And that is why we have been forced to buy automobiles, tractors, and many other machines from abroad and to pay to European and American capitalists large sums of money.

This condition is intolerable. Our country works according to a plan, and the success of this plan must not depend on whether a certain Mr. Fox desires or does not desire to sell us machines.

Foreign capitalists are not pleased with our plans; they would like to hamper us in every possible way. They realize that we are building socialism, and under socialism there is an end to profits. But why, then, do they sell us machines at all? Only because they need buyers, because they need to dispose of their goods. 'It is difficult,' says Ford, the American millionaire, 'to refuse today's for tomorrow's dollar.'

We must be independent of the calculations of European and American capitalists. And that is why we must first of all construct those machines that make machines.

2. Things Which Make Things

At one time man made everything for himself by hand. Man places an instrument in the iron hand of a machine and orders the machine to work.

Did you ever see a turning lathe?

With what does it work?

With a tool, a sharp-edged chisel. But this chisel is pressed, not in a human hand, but in an iron holder.

And the thing which the turning-lathe shapes is also not held by the hand of a worker. The lathe itself holds and turns it.

One often hears the statement made about a machine: It works like an iron man.

But this is not correct; this is nonsense. If a machine could work only as well as a man, to construct it would be unprofitable. A machine should work better than a man. It should be, and it is, a hundred times more agile, more accurate, and more powerful than a man.

Man has only two hands. To a machine we can give as many hands as we wish.

Man cannot work with even two tools at the same time: a machine can work not only with two, but with tens of tools simultaneously.

Man cannot do two things at once. He cannot at the same time saw, chop, hammer, and plane. But a machine can.

There are automatic lathes. The worker feeds iron rods into the machine, and the machine does the work. First with three 'rough' chisels it grinds a bolt out of the rod, and then with three 'finishing' chisels it trims the bolt. Thereafter a 'figure' chisel fashions a little head at one end and a 'screw-cutting' tool cuts threads at the other. And now everything being ready, the turn comes for the ninth tool to perform its task. It is a 'cutting' tool and cuts the finished bolt from the rod. All of this is done so quickly that you can hardly follow the movements of the lathe with your eye.

There's a machine for you! It uses nine tools. And do not imagine for a moment that one tool rests while another works.

They all work at once. While the cutting chisel is removing the bolt from the first rod, the figure and screw-cutting tools are busy with the second, the finishing chisels are occupied with the third, and the rough chisels have begun on the fourth.

What human being could work like that?

No, a machine is not an iron man.

And the speed with which it works! Sometimes the chisel cuts so rapidly that it gets red-hot. For such work chisels must be made of specially tempered steel.

And precision! Have you ever seen how blacksmiths work?

They work in twos. One hits the forge lightly with a small hammer to show where the real blow should be struck. The other, wielding a heavy sledge, strikes with all his might. But is it possible for a man to strike with a sledge and with all his might precisely where he should? The stronger the blow, the greater the chance of missing.

But the iron blacksmith–the steam hammer strikes without a blunder. The sledge with which it strikes glides between two iron rails. The stroke is well calculated and is directed with precision. There can be no mistake.

Rapidly and with precision the iron smith labors.

And what does the human worker near by do? He merely brings the material and removes the finished product. He is to the machine what a helper is to a skilled workman. The difference lies in the fact that the helper rather than the workman is in command.

3. Two Leningrads and Three Urals

We need first of all lathes, steam hammers, steel forges, presses, scissors, saws. But if these machines are to work, we must have engines: steam and water turbines, Diesel engines, electric motors.

Do we have them?

Very few.

We lack engines probably even more than lathes. By the end of the Five-Year Plan, we must have six times as many lathes as now. And steam turbines must be increased eleven-fold. We shall also require water turbines in great numbers: we must have nine times as many in 1933 as we had in 1928.

To achieve these goals is a tremendous task. But we must achieve them.

Otherwise the entire Five-Year Plan will crash.

Just think how many water and steam electric stations we have resolved to build! And each one of them will need turbines.

And steam boilers? We have few of them also. Even those that we do have should be replaced. In our factories many of the boilers are little old men made in the last century. Three out of every ten are more than twenty-five years old. The life of a machine is shorter than that of a human being. At twenty-five years of age a boiler is an old man.

The little old men must resign! We shall melt them up in our furnaces. And they will come out new boilers, sound and strong.

We still require many machines. We must have locomotives, ships, lifting cranes, conveyers, electric cars, and elevators to transport and raise loads: pumps and ventilators to drive water, air, gasoline, and oil through pipes: building machines, railroad machines, excavators, hewing machines, chemical apparatus, combines, thrashing machines and tractors. But can one enumerate all of them? We need a vast army of machines–coal miners, ore miners, loaders, carriers, builders, farmers, weavers, chemists, cobblers, millers, butter-makers. Some of these machines will procure raw materials for us–ore, coal, sand, and stone. Some will transport raw materials to the factories. Others will work in factories and make finished articles out of the raw materials. Yet others will labor in sovkhozes and kolkhozes [farm communes] and produce bread for us.

Every one of our factories for the construction of machinery must make thousands of machines every year. We must begin to build many machines which we have never made in the past. Heretofore we have not constructed combines, automobiles, hewing machines, electric cars, disk planters, tractor ploughs, typewriters, railroad machines, pneumatic hammers. We shall have to build hundreds of altogether new enterprises. And this is not so simple. Many new forms of industry we must learn from the beginning.

There are, then, two difficult tasks ahead of us: to organize new industries and to increase the output of machines many fold.

All of the Leningrad factories taken together cost 700 million rubles. For the repair of these enterprises and the building of new ones in the city we shall expend during the five years about 700 millions more.

That means that by 1933 we shall have created a second Leningrad. We shall then have two Leningrads, three Urals, and two Ukraines.

4. A Factory is an Automaton

To every new machine which we build we shall assign a definite task, a definite program: so many products an hour, so many a day, so many a year.

Also the whole factory must work according to a plan.

If the tractor factory in Stalingrad should give us, not 50 thousand tractors a year, but only 20 thousand, the deficiency would be felt at once on another part of the front–in the sovkhozes and kolkhozes. If the blast-furnaces should produce, not 12 million tons of pig iron a year, but only 6 million, half of-our factories for machine construction would be forced to close.

Each factory has its little plan. And of these little plans the large plan is composed–the Five-Year Plan. In order to fulfill the large plan, all the little plans must be achieved.

Every factory must work like an automaton.

But what must we do in order that every factory may turn out machines with the precision of an automaton? A machine is not a stick of chewing-gum. You cannot drop a coin into a slot and expect a finished machine to jump out.

A large factory is a whole city in itself. Something is always certain to be out of order. Here the water has stopped, there the light has gone out, in a third place a worker has begun to yawn, in a fourth a tool has broken.

All of these things certainly occur, and yet a factory can be made to work like a machine, like an automaton which throws chewing-gum out of a slot.

Take, for example, the tractor factory in Stalingrad. Every six minutes a new tractor will come out of the assembling plant. Every day seventy carloads of raw materials will enter the factory gates. And every day seventy-five platforms carrying tractors will leave the factory.

How like an automaton!

But how are we to do this? How are we to accomplish so difficult a task?

A tractor is not a trinket; it is composed of five thousand separate parts.

Each part must be carefully prepared, cast out of metal, forged from iron, finished on a lathe, ground, polished, drilled, and planed.

And then all these parts must be assembled and attached to each other. Suppose they do not fit. Suppose some one has made a mistake: the opening is not where it should be or the bolt does not go into place. Anything like this may happen.

And if it does happen, if a mistake is made in one place, in another, in a third, then the plan of the factory miscarries and the entire Five-Year Plan is endangered.

No, there must be no mistakes.

We must so arrange matters that mistakes cannot happen.

6. How They Work Without Mistakes

Imagine a huge hall. Through its center stand many rows of lathes, like the houses of a city.

Turning lathes, drilling lathes, planing lathes, bolt-cutting lathes, bur-cutting lathes, milling lathes, polishing lathes. Altogether there are 1360 lathes.

Between the lathes are streets, hundreds of streets.

Along the streets in long chains move, not people, but things–parts, details of a tractor.

In this city, of course, there are no tramways, no autobuses.

Light things move over ball-bearing ways, glide along inclined grooves. Heavy things go in carts on railways, or slowly creep along moving platforms conveyers. They all go, run, and ride in one direction–toward the main street of the city. And on their way they stop at each lathe as if at a house. Here they are planed, there they are ground, in a third place they are polished. When a detail reaches the main street, it is in order, finished, and ready to become a part of a tractor.

On the main street the tractor is assembled from these parts.

Imagine yourself watching the main street, an assembling conveyer. The tractor nearest to you does not even resemble a tractor as yet. It has neither wheels nor steering apparatus nor fenders. The box from which axles protrude on either side is the frame. One worker attaches the kerosene tank. Another puts on the motor and the radiator.

The next tractor already begins to look like a tractor. The fenders are on. And soon it will have a steering wheel: you can see it being put in place.

Farther on, the tractor is still without wheels. As it enters a tunnel, however, it is almost entirely completed. There stand painters wearing glasses to protect the eyes. They paint, not with brushes, but with a kind of atomizer: a device which sprays the paint on the body of the car. It works much more rapidly than a brush.

Then the tractor, painted and dried, descends from the conveyer, and for the first time stands on its own legs, or, we should say, on its own wheels.

Thus works the assembling department of a tractor factory.

There will be no mistakes.

A definite task is assigned each machine and a definite time for work: so many minutes, so many seconds. To each detail a definite time on the road, a definite schedule of arrival and departure. On the way between lathes a few extra details will always be attended to–for safety in case there is any delay. Before being placed on the tractor, every motor is tested in an experimental station.

There will be no mistakes. Six minutes to the tractor, not seven and not eight, but just six.