Jun 26, 2021
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June 22, 1941 – about the Soviet economic miracle and readiness to repel the enemy

Victory over the enemy began to be forged long before the start of the war

80 years have passed since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. It took the Soviet Union almost four years to crush the terrible enemy. Without a strong rear, such a victory would have been impossible. The rear is, first of all, the economy. And this rear was prepared ahead of time. Victory over the enemy began to be forged long before June 22, 1941.

The countdown of the preparation of the Soviet economy for war should be conducted from 1929, when the first five-year plan began and industrialization began. The goal was to transform the agro-industrial economy into a predominantly industrial one in the shortest possible time. This was necessary to solve two interrelated tasks: 1) ensuring the economic independence of the USSR, the transformation of the Soviet economy into a self-sufficient one (the Soviet Union was in the trade, economic and credit blockade of the West); 2) creation of an industrial foundation for the production of modern types of weapons and military equipment on a scale that would exceed the military potential of the enemy.

In England, Germany, the United States and others, industrialization was stretched out over many decades. It was necessary to overcome the economic lag of the USSR in the 1920s from the Western countries that were preparing military aggression against our country within ten years. This required an urgent transition from the liberal market model of the economy of the 1920s (NEP) to a mobilization economy. Such a transition was made at the turn of the 20-30s.

The vertical management of the economy was built from the top (the Council of Ministers, the Labor and Defense Council, the State Planning Committee) to the bottom (tens of thousands of enterprises). Plans have become the main management tool – five-year, annual, quarterly, monthly. They had the status of law, their failure to comply was severely punished. The plans had thousands of positions, and the overwhelming part of the indicators were natural (physical), only a small part was cost.

At the turn of the 20-30s. a reform of the credit and banking system was carried out, a large number of private commercial banks were liquidated or reorganized into state credit organizations. The banking sector became completely state-owned, and money circulation became double-circuit: one circuit was non-cash payments between enterprises and organizations; the second circuit is the circulation of cash for servicing citizens (salaries, pensions, scholarships, retail). There was no free flow of money from one circuit to another. The state form of ownership was dominant in industry, and in agriculture cooperative (collective farms) prevailed, although there was also a state (state farms). In the sphere of foreign economic relations, there was a system of state monopoly of foreign trade and a state currency monopoly. The Soviet ruble was not used for international payments.

Industrialization was carried out in stages. At the first stage (the first five-year plan), the foundation of heavy industry was created (coal and oil production, ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, the production of cement and other building materials, and the electric power industry). Special measures were taken to accelerate the development of the gold mining industry in the Far East to obtain precious metal and purchase equipment on the world market. The beginning of industrialization coincided with the onset of the global economic crisis. The West was forced to cancel or weaken those restrictions and prohibitions that were in effect within the framework of various blockades against the USSR, and we did not hesitate to take advantage of this. Western (mainly American) specialists took part in the design and construction of many large and largest industrial facilities. Soviet engineers, designers, and builders were still in the position of apprentices.

At the second stage (the second five-year plan), the emphasis was placed on mechanical engineering – the production of metal-cutting and other machine tools, power and electrical equipment, cars, steam locomotives and wagons, ships, tractors. At the third stage (the unfinished third five-year plan), the production of special machines and equipment for the creation of the most complex types of weapons and military equipment was launched, a rapid increase in the production of military aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles, shells and ammunition, communications equipment began. At the second and especially the third stages, we gradually abandoned the services of Western designers, builders and engineers. The training of our own personnel was being established – in universities and technical schools. A network of production and technical (craft) schools was deployed to train highly qualified workers.

By 1940, more than 9 thousand enterprises had been commissioned. It turned out that, on average, two new industrial facilities were commissioned every day. And this is not counting those enterprises that already worked at the start of industrialization; they, as a rule, underwent serious technical renovation. Among the largest industrial facilities put into operation are: DneproGES, metallurgical plants in Magnitogorsk, Lipetsk and Chelyabinsk, Novokuznetsk, Norilsk, Uralmash, tractor plants in Stalingrad, Chelyabinsk, Kharkov, Uralvagonzavod, automobile plants GAZ, ZIS and later ZIL others. A new railway appeared – Turksib. The pace of construction was unprecedented. So, the construction of the Gorky Automobile Plant took 17 months, the construction of the Stalingrad Tractor Plant – 11 months.

According to the results of the first five-year plan, the USSR surpassed Germany and England in terms of industrial production and took second place in the world after the United States. At the turn of the 30-40s. the share of the USSR in world industrial production reached 10%. The country ranked first in the world in the extraction of manganese ore, the production of synthetic rubber, the first in Europe and the second in the world in oil production, in gross output of tractor and mechanical engineering. One of the leading places in the world was occupied by the Soviet Union in the production of electricity, aluminum, steel and pig iron smelting, coal mining and cement production.

The Soviet economic miracle of the USSR has an explanation.

The share of the gross social product directed to capital investments reached 50%. World history has never known such a high rate of accumulation either before or after Soviet industrialization. The possibilities for the growth of personal consumption of Soviet citizens (another part of the gross social product) were limited. Throughout all the years of pre-war industrialization, there was a strong advance in the development of the branches of group “A” (production of means of production) in comparison with the branches of group “B” (production of consumer goods). Data on such a difference in the growth rates of branches of groups “A” and “B” are given in his book “The military economy of the USSR during the Patriotic War” N.А. Voznesensky. The gross industrial output increased (in constant prices) from 21.4 billion rubles. in 1928 to 138.5 billion rubles. in 1940, therefore, increased 6.5 times, and the production of means of production increased from 8.5 billion rubles. up to 84.8 billion rubles, or 10 times. At the same time, it increased from 12.9 billion rubles. in 1928 to 53.7 billion rubles. in 1940, or more than 4 times, the production of consumer goods.

During the years of the first five-year plan, there were cards and a shortage of many consumer goods. The country’s authorities have made great efforts to explain to people the vital need for industrialization, which required “tightening the belts.” In the second five-year period, there has already been a tendency towards an increase in the income of the population and an increase in the mass of consumer goods in trade. Explanatory work and raising the incomes of the population did their job, labor enthusiasm appeared. This is how Dmitry Verkhoturov describes the years of industrialization: “… The people were carried away by construction projects. A matter that is millions of times greater than the capabilities of one’s own hands, which requires the highest effort of mind, ingenuity and skill, carries away and throws contradictions into the background. At all large construction sites, without exception, the mass of workers gradually became infected with labor enthusiasm, made record outputs and outstanding achievements … “(Dmitry Verkhoturov. Stalin against the Great Depression. Anti-crisis policy of the USSR. – M .: Yauza; Eksmo, 2009, p. 7).

By June 22, 1941, the country managed, in the main, to fulfill the tasks that were set at the start of industrialization. Economic independence and self-sufficiency were achieved. A single national economic complex was created. The share of imports in meeting the domestic needs of the USSR for industrial and consumer goods in 1940 was negligible 0.3-0.4%. In the same year, no more than 1% of domestic production was exported.

The second task was basically solved – the creation of a military industry and the establishment of the production of the most advanced military equipment and modern weapons. By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union surpassed Germany in terms of the power of aircraft factories. On the eve of the fascist aggression, the aircraft industry of the USSR had 24 aircraft manufacturing plants, including 15 factories for fighter, auxiliary, and nine bomber and assault aircraft. During the years of the pre-war five-year plans, a large tank industry was created in the country practically from scratch. Before the war, nine factories produced tanks, tank armor and motors.

In the third five-year plan, another new task of industrialization was carried out – the creation of backup enterprises in the east of the country. By 1941, almost a sixth of all Soviet military factories were located in the Urals, the Volga region, Western and Eastern Siberia. For some types of weapons and ammunition, they produced over 34% of the products of the defense industry.

The importance of creating an industrial center in the east can hardly be overestimated. On the territory of the USSR, occupied by November 1941, 40% of the population lived and there were facilities for the production of 63% of all pre-war coal mining, 68% of all pig iron smelting, 58% of all steel smelting, 60% of all aluminum production. In the occupied territory by November 1941, 38% of all pre-war gross grain production, 84% of all pre-war sugar production were produced.

The shift of productive forces to the east in the second half of 1941 was truly tremendous. During three months of 1941 (July – September), more than 1,360 large, mainly military, enterprises were evacuated to the eastern regions of the USSR (the Urals, western Siberia, Central Asia and Kazakhstan). Since December 1941, the decline in industrial production in the warring Soviet Union has stopped, and since March 1942, production again quickly went up; the release of military products in March 1942 only in the eastern regions of the country reached the level of production that took place at the beginning of the war throughout the USSR …

And in conclusion, some figures for the production of weapons and military equipment during the Second World War in the USSR (in parentheses for comparison – figures for Germany): tanks and self-propelled artillery installations – 82,250 (30,000); mortars (50 mm and above) – 347.900 (73.484); machine guns – 1.477.400 (674.280); military trucks – 265.600 (345.914); military aircraft of all types – 213.742 (109.320) (Harrison, Mark. The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison, Cambridge University Press, 1998).

Valentin Katasonov

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