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

M. Ilin's

The Story of the Five-Year Plan


1. A Fragment from a Book to be Written Fifty Years Hence

They lived in crowded dwellings with little windows, with dark, dirty corridors, with low ceilings. Of every five or six persons one had to sweep and scrub the doom, cook the food, go marketing, wash clothes, nurse the children. With rare exceptions this work was done by women, the so-called 'housekeepers.' At that time there were already on the market such inventions as mechanical potato peelers, meat choppers, dish washers, clothes cleaners, and other devices. But in spite of this millions of women continued to work with their hands. Small wonder that after toiling fifteen or sixteen hours a day they were unable to finish their work. Rooms were cleaned thoroughly only twice a year, on the eve of some holiday. Children were always unkempt and ragged. Food was prepared carelessly, was tasteless and deficient in nourishment. Not one housekeeper knew the number of calories contained in a kilogram of cabbage or a liter of milk. The cooking of the food was done in a 'kitchen,' that is, a small crowded room. Steam kettles were altogether lacking and food was cooked over an open fire. An unheard-of amount of wood was consumed in the process–in those days they still used wood for fuel.

The food often burned, and a suffocating smoke spread through the rest of the house. Here in the kitchen also was a garbage pail to hold the wastes of production: potato peelings, herring tails, bones, and so on. During the day this refuse poisoned the air: not until evening was it emptied into a kind of half-closed garbage hole in the yard. No one thought of turning the wastes of the kitchen into fertilizers or to some other useful purpose.

As a rule every room in the house was heated separately. Very few homes were equipped with central heating systems. Even in the United States as late as 1930 there were 30,000,000 open fireplaces and stoves. All of these individual heaters burned enormous quantities of fuel.

The furniture in the rooms was heavy, clumsy, and uncomfortable. Light metal furniture was then almost unknown. The most popular chairs and sofas were covered with cloth and filled with hair or sawdust. In order to raise a great cloud of dust all you had to do was to tap lightly the seat of one of these articles of furniture. On the floor they laid pieces of thick carpet. On the walls they hung little shelves and pictures. The windows, besides being small, were screened with curtains which shut out much of the light. All of these things were done even though the fact had already been established that dust is a source of disease. If you examine dust under a microscope, you will find that it contains the microbes of various maladies, particles of human skin, tiny bits of clothing, and other dangerous things. Yet no one seemed to realize that dust is a social enemy as terrible as flood or fire.

The houses in which people lived were completely unsuited to rest after the work of the day. In one crowded apartment they read, cooked their food, prepared for examinations, washed their clothes, received their guests, nursed their children. When they returned home exhausted from their labors, they were unable to find the rest they needed to renew their energy and vigor for the following day.

In the majority of families children had no care during the entire day because their mothers were at work outside the home or busy with household duties. Every large building boasted a yard which was somewhat like a well surrounded by four stone walls. In this yard there was usually a hole to receive the refuse from the kitchen. And this dark place, without sunlight, without trees, and without grass was the children's playground.

Still worse lived the people in the village. One political leader wrote as follows at the beginning of the twentieth century:

'Most of the peasant huts are eighteen by twentyone feet. In such a hut are housed on the average about seven people, but there are huts–little cages–no larger than twelve feet square. The stove occupies about one-fifth of the total air space. It plays A a tremendous role in the life and the economy of the family. Not only do the peasants warm themselves by it, but they also sleep on it and use it for drying clothes, shoes, grain, hemp. Not only do they bake and cook with the stove, but they also depend upon it for steam baths. And under the stove chickens, calves, and sheep are often protected from the frosts of winter. Not infrequently the cow is also brought into the hut at the time of calving. Practically the only furniture is a table which serves both cooking and dining purposes. On this table too all kinds of housework are done, harness repaired, clothes made and mended. A common saying among the peasants is: "We are so poor that we haven't even anything with which to feed the roaches."'

Thus lived millions of people. And the remarkable thing is not that they existed, but that they did not all die.

2. New Life and New People

All this will be written about us a few decades hence.

We live badly. We change Nature, but as yet we have not changed our own selves. And this is the most essential thing. Why have we begun all this tremendous work which will last not five, but fifteen, twenty, and perhaps more years? Why do we mine millions of tons of coal and ore? Why do we build millions of machines? Do we do these things merely in order to change Nature?

No, we change Nature in order that people may live better.

We need machines in order that we may work less and accomplish more. By the end of the Five-Year Plan the working day in a factory will be reduced by 50 minutes. If we assume that the working year consists of 273 days (not counting rest days and holidays), the worker will labor 227 hours a year less than he did at the beginning of the plan. And 227 hours is almost 73 seven-hour working days.

He will work less and yet accomplish more. During seven hours in the factory he will do what now requires eleven and a half hours.

And if this is so, his wages will be raised by fifty per cent.

In comparison with conditions before the Revolution, every worker will labor three hours less a day and yet will receive twice as much pay.

But this is not all. Work will be made easier. No longer will there be bent backs, strained muscles, inflated veins on the forehead. Loads will travel, not on people's backs, but over conveyers. The heavy crowbar and hoe will give place to the pneumatic hammer and compressed air.

Instead of dark, gloomy shops with dim, yellow lamps there will be light, clean halls with great windows and beautiful tile doors. Not the lungs of men, but powerful ventilators will suck in and swallow the dirt, dust, and shavings of the factories. Workers will be less fatigued after a day's labor. There will be fewer 'occupational' diseases. Think of all the people who perish now from these ailments! Every metal worker has lungs eaten up by metal dust. You can at once recognize a blacksmith by his pale face, a stoker by his red inflamed eyes. After we build socialism all will have equally healthy faces. Men will cease to regard work as a punishment, a heavy obligation. They will labor easily and cheerfully.

But if work will be a joy, rest will be a double joy.

Can one rest now in a crowded and noisy home amid the hissing of oil burners, the smoke of the kitchen, the drying of wet diapers, the filth of dim windows, dirty furniture, spittle-covered doors, and unwashed dishes on the table!

After all man is not just muscles with which to work. He is not a machine. He has a mind that wants to know, eyes that want to see, ears that want to hear, a voice that wants to sing, feet that want to Fun and jump and dance, hands that want to row and swim and throw and catch. And we must organize life so that not merely certain lucky ones but all may be able to feel the joy of living.

After socialism is built there will no longer be dwarfs–people with exhausted, pale faces, people reared in basements without sunshine or air. Healthy, strong giants, red-cheeked curd happy-such will be the new people.

But to accomplish this we must have new cities and new houses, our whole life even to the last kitchen pot must be changed.

Down with the kitchen! We shall destroy this little penitentiary! We shall free millions of women from housekeeping. They want to work like the rest of us. In a factory-kitchen one person can prepare from fifty to one hundred dinners a day. We shall force machines to peel the potatoes, wash the dishes, cut the bread, stir the soup, make the ice-cream.

Down with the dark and small and crowded dwelling!

We shall build large houses–communes with light spacious rooms. Let us understand once for all that it is impossible to work, rest, study, cook, and receive guests in the same place. There must be separate rooms for rest, for play, for reading, for dining, for receiving guests. And children must have rooms of their own. Adults frequently complain that children interrupt their sleep, their study, their conversation. But let not the grown-ups annoy the children and interfere with their noise and games.

Already we have such houses. The newspaper Pravda writes that in Moscow on Khavsky Street a, 'house Commune' has recently been built.

It is a very large building. On the first floor there is a light and spacious dining room: on the second an auditorium with a balcony for lectures, entertainments, and moving pictures. Next to the auditorium are several rooms for circles, for libraries, for noisy and quiet rest, rooms for the receiving of guests. The third floor is a many-roomed gymnasium. On the flat roof of the building benches are placed and flower beds arranged. In summer people will rest and take sun and shower baths here. In winter the roof will be converted into a skating rink, and merry skaters will cut figures on the ice high above the streets of Moscow.

For little children several rooms are reserved on the first floor. Here are playrooms (make as much noise as you please!), and classrooms and shops and verandas.

All rooms are light and cheerful.

Colors are selected so that they may delight and not tire or injure the eyes.

But we need not merely new houses: we need new socialistic cities.

The old city is a huge pile of gloomy and crowded houses, a cheerless world of stone walls and pavement. Only here and there may be seen little islands of green squares. But the farther you go into the center of the city–into the workers' quarters the dirtier and darker become the streets. For those who can extricate themselves from this stone hell at least once a year, life is not so bad. But there are people who never leave the city.

I recall that once in our class we laughed at a boy who had never seen a sheep. This little boy was born and reared on Borovoy Street. There also he died. Not once during his whole life was he fortunate enough to walk through a forest or a field.

Down with these abominable old cities! Like huge lichens they have grown and spread over the earth. We must make them over and also construct new socialistic cities. A socialistic city will be entirely different from the city that we know.

3. The City of We Future

How was the old city built?

In the center a fortress, a kremlin, an inner citadel.

Around this center a ring of markets, shops, and stores grew up. And when they began to build factories, a third ring of the city appeared–the factory district. Among these shops, markets, and factories they erected dwellings–the better ones in the heart of the city and the poorer ones in the outskirts.

A new city will not be built thus. Its center will be, not a fortress, or a market, but a factory or an electric station.

About each large electric station, about each large factory or union of factories a city will spring up.

Not the gray wall of a fortress with stone teeth and lookout towers, but a green wall of parks will separate the heart of the city–the factory–from the residential sections. This green wall will protect the city from the smoke and soot of factory chimneys.

And the blocks will be different.

From the central square, like the rays of the sun, avenues and boulevards will radiate in all directions. Buildings will not stand in a row like soldiers, all facing one way. Each dwelling will turn toward the sun in order to get as much of its light as possible. White house-communes, schools, libraries, hospitals will be surrounded with flower beds. At every entrance you will be greeted by green giants–oaks, pines, linden trees.

The happy singing of birds and the calm, sustained, refreshing voices of trees, instead of the present clang and rumble and roar, will be heard on the streets of the city.

There will be none of that incessant bustle and scramble which now shatter the nerves of all of us city dwellers.

Institutions will be situated far from dwellings. People must live in quiet and peaceful places.

There will be less traffic in the streets and no such colossal cities as we now have. A city of one hundred thousand inhabitants will be considered too large.

Every future city will be a workers' village near a factory. And factories and unions of factories will not all be brought together in one center as at present: they will be distributed throughout the entire country according to a rational plan. Our raw materials are round, not in one place either, but in a thousand places.

This is the way a city will be built. But how about the village?

There will be no village. Bread and meat and milk will be secured from factories in sovkhozes and kolkhozes. Around each of these agricultural factories other factories will be constructed–food, flour, conserve, meat, refrigeration. All of these will constitute a single union of factories, but agricultural rather than industrial. And around each of these unions a city will rise–an agricultural city. This means that the difference between city and village, between peasant and workman, will disappear. Even the words 'peasant' and 'workman' will pass away.

Only the word 'laborer' will remain.

This will happen after we construct socialism. But already during these five years we shall build about two hundred socialistic cities, thousands of house-communes. Already the difference between city and village is being effaced.

Socialism is no longer a myth, a phantasy of the mind. We ourselves are building it.

But the task of building socialism is not easy. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies.

Like the builders at Dnieprostroy, we have raised protecting walls around us. But any minute the water may break through the walls, rush into the enclosure, overturn and destroy everything that we have done.

And that is why the work must go on so rapidly and with such concentration.

More quickly must be erected the stone dams of factories and mills. More quickly, because time does not wait.

If we try hard enough, we can fulfill the Five-Year Plan, not in five, but in four years, or even sooner. Already we have decided to achieve it in four years in the case of pig iron and steel; in three and a half years, in the case of gasoline and cement; in three years in the case of coal, oil, peat, tractors, and automobiles. We planned to increase the production of machines during the five years three and a half times, but we shall increase it eight times. We planned to raise the output of pig iron to 10 million tons a year, but we shall raise it to 15 millions. The production of coal will rise, not to 75 million tons, but to 120 millions; the production of oil, not to 26 million tons, but to 40 millions.

All the figures have grown, all the tasks have multiplied. Every day the papers spur on the laggers. In every enterprise shock brigades are at work. One factory sends a challenge to another: which will do the task faster, which will do it better?

Millions of workers are striving to fufill the Five-Year Plan successfully; every- one hopes that life will be better afterwards.

Yes, life will be better afterwards, if we will it.

4. Factories for the Refining of People

A great plan men have conceived, a great task they have set themselves. To change Nature and to change themselves. Are we, such as we are, fit for the new way of life? We know little; we have few engineers, few physicians, few scientists; half of us above eight years of age in the village cannot even read. In America only six per cent of the people are illiterate. We need factories not only to refine iron and steel. We also need factories to refine people: we need schools, universities, libraries, cottage reading rooms; we need books and newspapers many times more than we have now. We must eradicate drunkenness; we must close shops of alcohol and replace saloons with theaters and moving pictures, with clubs and rest homes.

We must root out uncouthness and ignorance, we must change ourselves, we must become worthy of a better life. And this better life will not come as a miracle: we ourselves must create it. But to create it we need knowledge: we need strong hands, yes, but we need strong minds too.

5. The Little Five-Year Plan and the Big Five-Year Plan

Do not imagine that the Five-Year Plan is wholly the work of grown-ups.

Every one of you can be a builder of the Five-Year Plan.

'The Pioneers of the Lisvensky factory constructed a water and a wind mill and started a dynamo.

'On the Briansk road sixteen kilometers from Moscow in the village Peredelkino, the Pioneers of the Khamovnichesky region electrified their camp. They damned a small river, set up a water wheel, attached to it a small dynamo from a cinema apparatus, stretched wires to the camp, and henceforth illuminated their tents with electricity during the darkness of the summer nights.

'The youngsters of Ribinsk while studying their own region found deposits of lime which is entirely suited for use as fertilizer. The Novosiberian Komsomols and Pioneers discovered resources worth many millions of rubles. They started out on a scouting expedition and stumbled upon beds of coal and iron.

'On the outskirts of Moscow a children's city working independently built a macadam road approximately 300 meters long and planted apple trees on either side.

'The children of Zherdevsky kolkhoz, gathered and planted apple seeds. They thus started a fruit orchard. Next year they will supply every household with valuable cuttings.'

All these accounts I have taken from the report of the Pioneer Meet. There are dozens of such items in the report.

You thus see how children can help achieve the Five-Year Plan. Fulfill your own little plan and then the big plan will be fulfilled before the assigned time. Whether it will be a task which requires a few days or a few weeks matters not: it will be your contribution.

Here it is–your Five-Year Plan:

1. To discover beds of lime and phosphorus.

2. To gather useful junk: rags, ropes, wool, bones, scraps of metal, and so on. All of these things will come in handy in our factories. Every Pioneer should collect not less than twenty kilograms a year.

3. To build radios and loud-speakers. Within the next few years seventy-five thousand radios should be installed in villages. Not one school should be without a loud-speaker.

4. To sort and treat with insecticide one hundred per cent of all grain used in kolkhozes and on the farms of your parents.

5. To gather ashes for fertilizing fields. Each troop of Pioneers should gather two tons of ashes a year.

6. To destroy ten marmots a year in the regions infested by these animals; to clear one tenth of a hectare of land of parasites; to destroy all injurers on one fruit tree and on ten vegetables; to catch or destroy five rats and ten mice.

7. To build one starling house and two feeding houses a year; to raise the number of starling houses to a million and a half and of feeding houses to two millions. Birds are our allies: they will help us destroy parasites.

8. To organize in five years, five thousand children's bird brotherhoods, to found five thousand collective poultry yards, and to build five thousand chicken houses.

9. To add two good laying hens to the possessions of every peasant household.

10. To plant ten trees each in five years; to create Pioneer forests of seventy-five million trees.

11. To destroy bedbugs, roaches, and flies in five hundred thousand houses. Each troop should clean up ten houses.

12. To teach the illiterate to read and write. Each troop should endeavor to wipe out illiteracy in its region.

These are only some of your chief tasks. If you wish to learn the details, read 'The Report of the Pioneer Meet.'

Grown-ups will build large electric stations; you can build small ones. Grown-ups will build large houses; you can build starling houses and bird feeding houses.

And do not imagine that these are trifles.

If you fulfill your Five-Year Plan, you will save from parasites grain worth 2,631,800 rubles.

If you add two good laying hens to the possessions of each household, you will make a present to the state of five billion eggs, 150 million rubles.

From kopecks millions are composed: weak hands, if they be many, can move mountains and plant forests of trees.

Herein lies your power.