(Title in Russian language)


M. Ilin


The Story of the Great Plan




Ilya Marshak (pseud. M. Ilin) was a trained engineer from a famous family of children s writers (his brother was Samuil Marshak). Story of the Great Plan (1930) provides lyrical and dynamic descriptions of the great construction epics of the first five year plan.






1. What machines are most essential?

Metal for machines we shall have.

Energy too.

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. And there are machines that make machines.

There are tens of thousands of machines. 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 iron blacksmiths, locksmiths, and lathe-grinders; if we have drillers, grinders, and polishers, then we shall be able to make any machine for any factory.

And that is the whole point.

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

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

Foreign capitalists do not like our plans; they would like to hamper us in every possible way. They realize that we are building socialism, and that socialism will bring an end to profiteering. 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 dollar for the good of tomorrow.'

We must not depend on the calculations of European and American capitalists. And that is why we must first of all construct those machines that make machines.

2. Things That Make Things

At one time man made everything with his own hands. Now things make themselves. Man placed an instrument in the iron hand of a machine and ordered the machine to work.

Did you ever see a turning lathe?

What makes it work? A tool, a sharp-edged chisel. But the chisel is clenched not in a human hand, but in an iron holder.

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

You often hear people say about a machine: it works just like an iron man.

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

Man has only two hands. We can give a machine as many hands as we want.

Man cannot work with 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 finishes the bolt.

Thereafter a 'form-tool' 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. 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.

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 that it works with! 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 swing a sledge 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' never misses. The sledge it strikes with glides between two iron rails. The stroke is exactly aimed and calculated. 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. But here the helper, not 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 make six times as many lathes as now. And steam turbines must be increased eleven-fold. we shall also need water turbines in great numbers: we must build them nine times faster than at the start of the Five-Year Plan.

This is a tremendous task. But we must achieve it.

Otherwise the entire Five Year Plan will crash.

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

And steam boilers? We do not have enough of them either.

Even those that we do have should be replaced. In our factories many of the boilers are old-timers made last century. Three out of every ten are more than twenty-five years old.

A machine lives shorter than a human being. A twenty-five year old boiler is an old man.

Let the old guys retire! We shall melt them down in our open-hearth furnaces. And their places will taken by new boilers, sound and strong.

We still need 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, threshing machines and tractors. But can you list 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 and produce bread for us.

Every one of our factories for the construction of machinery must make thousands of machines every year. Many machines we have never made in the past, but now we will. 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 easy. We must learn a new job 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 spend during the next five years about 700 millions more. That means that in five years 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 we build we 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 machine construction factories 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 to make every factory turn out machines with the precision of an automaton? A machine is not a train ticket. 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 a light has gone out, in a third place a worker is loafing, 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 the automaton that throws tickets out of a slot.

Take, for example, the tractor factory in Stalingrad. Every six minutes a new tractor will come out of the assembly 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 is that different from an automaton!

But how are we to do this? How can we achieve this?

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 arrange matters so that mistakes cannot happen.

5. How They Work Without Machines

Imagine a huge hall. Across the 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. 1360 lathes.

Between the lathes run 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 streetcars, no buses.

Light things move over ball-bearing roads and glide along inclined grooves. Heavy things go in carts on railways, or slowly creep along moving platforms--conveyer belts. They all go, run, and ride in one direction--toward the city's main street . 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 assembly line. The tractor nearest to you does not even resemble a tractor yet. It has neither wheels nor steering wheel nor fenders. The box that axles protrude from on either side is the frame. One worker attaches the kerosene tank. Another puts on the motor and the radiator.

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

The tractor still doesn't have wheels. As it enters a tunnel, however, it is almost entirely completed. There stand painters wearing eye goggles. They paint, not with brushes, but with an atomizer: a device that sprays 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 assembly department of a tractor factory.

There will be no mistakes.

A definite task is assigned each machine and a definite time for the job: so many minutes, so many seconds. To each detail a definite time on the belt, a definite schedule of arrival and departure. On the way between lathes a few extra details will always be attended to--in case there has been any delay. Before being mounted on the tractor, every motor is checked in a testing station.

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



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 floors, cook the food, go marketing, wash clothes, nurse the children. With rare exceptions this work was done by women, 'the so-called 'housewives.' 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 housewives continued to work with their hands. Small wonder that toiling fifteen or sixteen hours a day they were still unable to finish their work. Rooms were cleaned thoroughly only twice a year, on the eve of important holidays. Children were always unkempt and ragged. Food was prepared carelessly, was tasteless and unnourishing. Not a single housewife knew how many calories were in a kilogram of cabbage or a liter of milk. Food was cooked 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 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-covered garbage pit in the yard. No one thought of turning the kitchen wastes into glue, fertilizer or to some other useful purpose.

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 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. To raise a great cloud of dust, all you had to do was to tap a chair seat lightly. 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 by curtains which shut out most of the light. All these were done as if purposely to collect dust. Yet dust had already been established to be a source of infection. If you examine dust under a microscope, you will find that it contains the germs of various diseases, particles of human skin, tiny bits of clothing, etc. Yet no one seemed to realize that dust is a social calamity as terrible as flood or fire.

The houses in which people lived were completely unsuited to rest after work. 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 that 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.

People lived still worse in the villages. One writer and political leader wrote at the beginning of the twentieth century:

Most peasant huts are eighteen by twenty-one 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. The stove plays and enormous role in the home-life and even the economy of the family. Not only do the peasants warm themselves on it, but they also sleep on it and use it for drying clothes, shoes, grain, hemp. Not only do they bake and cook on the stove, but they also depend on it for steam baths. And under the stove chickens, calves, and sheep are often protected from the winter frosts. Not infrequently, the cow is also brought into the hut at calving time. Practically the only furniture is a table that serves for both cooking and eating.

On this table too all kinds of housework are done, harnesses repaired, clothes made and mended. A common saying among the peasants was: "We're so poor that we can't even feed the cockroaches."

That's how millions of people lived. And the remarkable thing is not that they lived, but that they didn't all die.

2. New Life and New People

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

We live badly and stupidly. We change Nature, but we have not changed our own selves. And this is the most essential thing. Why did we conceive this tremendous labor 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 to change Nature?

No, we change Nature so that people can live better.

We need machines so that we can work less and accomplish more. By the end of the Five-Year Plan the factory working day will be reduced by 50 minutes. If we consider that the working year consists of 273 days (not counting rest days and holidays), a worker will work 227 hours a year less than he did at the beginning of the plan. And 227 hours equals almost 32 seven-hour working days.

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

And if this is so, his wages will be raised by more than fifty per cent. Compared to conditions before the Revolution, every worker will labor three hours less a day and yet will receive twice as much pay.

But that 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 pick 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 floors. Not the lungs of men, but powerful ventilators will suck in and swallow dirt, dust, and shavings from the shop. 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 metal-worker by his pale face, a stoker by his red inflamed eyes.

After we build socialism everyone 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, time-off 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 floors, and unwashed dishes on the table!

After all man is not just muscles for working. He is not a machine. He has a mind that wants to know, eyes that want to see, ears that want to hear, a throat that wants to sing, feet that want to run 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 and happy: such will be the new people.

But to accomplish this we need new cities and new houses. We must remake our whole life down to the last kitchen pot .

Down with the kitchen! We shall destroy this little domestic penitentiary! We shall free millions of women from housekeeping. They want to live and 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, crank the ice-cream maker.

Down with dark, small and crowded dwellings!

We shall build large communal houses with light spacious rooms. Let us understand once and 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 'Commune House' has recently been built.

It is a huge 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 club circles, libraries for noisy and quiet relaxation, rooms for the receiving of guests. The third floor is a many-roomed gymnasium.

The roof is flat. Benches will be placed there 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 workshops and verandas.

All the rooms are light and cheerful.

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

But we need not just 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 in the center may be seen the little islands of green squares. But the farther you go from the center of the city' toward the workers' quarters the dirtier and darker become the streets. For those who can get themselves out of 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 Borovoi Street. There 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 build new socialistic cities.

A socialistic city will be entirely different from the city that we know.