1938-1941 - Mobilization
Converting the national economy from a peacetime to wartime status (mobilizing the economy) consists, as is known, in reorganizing all the economic sectors and appropriate state institutions in the nation for organizing mass production of weapons, military equipment, ammunition, uniforms, supplies and other materiel for the all-round support of the Armed Forces, the activities of the state and the population in the course of the war.
The mobilizing of the Soviet economy started fully only with the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War. However, during the prewar years, the Soviet people, under the leadership of the Communist Party, successfully carried out the tasks of increasing the nation's military-economic potential, broadening military production, preparing the economy for a military reorganization and increasing its survivability.
In creating the industrial potential, the necessity of the rational placement and military-economic dispersement of national economic capacity was taken into account. Industry was brought closer to the raw material and fuel sources located largely in the Eastern regions of the USSR. During the years of the Third Five-Year Plan, the basic emphasis was put on establishing military-industry facilities in the Volga, the Urals and Siberia.
Of major importance for increasing the viability of the economy was the duplicating of unique enterprises located in the European USSR in the East of the nation. Thus, ferroalloy plants, aluminum-magnesium enterprises and so forth were built in Kuznetsk (now Novokuznetsk) and in the Urals.
Due to the comprehensive program for improving military-economic potential, by the summer of 1941, the industrial enterprises of the Urals, the Volga, Western and Eastern Siberia as well as Central Asia and the Far East were producing 18.5 percent of the military product but for the basic types this figure surpassed 34 percent. In building new plants, production envisaged the possibility of rapidly converting them to turning out military products. Many enterprises received mobilization plans.
The German attack on 22 June 1941 was not a strategic surprise. The situation during the first months of the war was exceptionally complex. But under these conditions socialist industry demonstrated its ability to rapidly satisfy the arising demand. Entire sectors of the national economy were converted to a wartime status. The plants of heavy, transport and agricultural machine building were converted to tank production while the medium machine building enterprises were to begin producing artillery pieces and mortar.
An important condition for the successful resolution of the military-economic tasks was the intensification of the party leadership of the economy. The basic branches of the military economy were headed by members or candidate members of the Politburo of the VKP(b) Central Committee. Experienced party and economic workers headed the people's commissariats of industry: D.F.Ustinov, armament; A.I.Shakhurin, aviation industry; P.I.Parshin, mortar industry; and B.A.Vannikov, ammunition.
The entire burden of authority was concentrated in the hands of the State Defense Committee [GKO] established on 30 June 1941. The GKO decrees and decisions had the force of wartime laws for all the state, party, Komsomol and public bodies as well as for all citizens. Later on the Operations Bureau of the GKO was established and this supervised the routine activities of all the people's commissariats. This made it possible to pool the efforts of the front and the rear and more effectively utilize the resources for mobilizing the economy. Particular attention was paid to the questions of producing combat equipment, weapons, ammunition and fuel.
The repair shops of plants and local industry and artisan cooperative enterprises were also converted to producing weapons and ammunition. For example, during the first days of the war 40 plants were involved in producing heavy tanks in Leningrad, 60 plants were producing regimental cannons, 15 were turning out medium machine guns, 16 were producing mortars while 7 plants were producing submachine guns. Some 116 enterprises were involved in the machining of shells and projectiles.
The Communist Party and the Soviet government undertook decisive measures aimed at developing military production on an ever-increasing scale. Upon a decision of the party Central Committee, just during the last 4 months of 1941, 8 tank plants, 6 hull and 3 diesel tank plants were set up in the Volga and particularly in the Urals. The People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metallurgy from 1 August 1941 promised to begin producing armored plate at the Kuznetsk Metallurgical Plant. The people's commissariats of medium machine building and ferrous metallurgy were to immediately move the armor rolling mill from the Kirov to the Nizhniy Tagil Metallurgical Plant.
The front needed airplanes, guns and mortars and ammunition just as much as tanks. At a price of enormous effort the workers of the rear during the second half of 1941 increased the production of artillery pieces by almost 3-fold in comparison with the prewar 6 months, by 2.8-fold for tanks and 1.6-fold for airplanes.
Military production rose significantly in the first half of 1942. As a consequence of the occupation of a number of regions in the USSR, the national economy suffered enormous losses. Prior to the war, the territory temporarily occupied by the enemy by November 1941 had around 40 percent of the nation's population, it produced 63 percent of the coal, cast 68 percent of the iron, 58 percent of the steel, 60 percent of the aluminum, it produced 38 percent of the grain and had 41 percent of the total railroad length.
By the summer of 1942, the conversion of the national economy to a wartime footing had basically been complete. Although it was not possible to achieve the prewar production level of the most important types of industrial product, the output volume of weapons and military equipment grew constantly and by the end of 1941 surpassed the prewar level.
In the course of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union won not only a military and political victory over Nazi Germany but also an economic one. The Soviet economy was more productive, more organized and more flexible. Regardless of the fact that Nazi Germany had converted its economy to a wartime footing ahead of time, it employed the economic capabilities of the captured and allied European nations for the needs of the war, in the very difficult economic duel, military-technical superiority over the enemy was achieved and the level of Soviet production substantially surpassed the level of the Nazi German defense industry.
During the war years there was a sharp increase in the "price" of time - everything had to be done in extremely short periods of time. High-speed work methods became widespread in many spheres of activity. Thus before the war new models of artillery equipment were assimilated within 1-2 years while during the war this took from 1-3 months.
In 1942, USSR industry produced more military equipment than German industry did. In 1942 the USSR passed Germany up in terms of the amount of output of aircraft, tanks and other military equipment, while at the same time it had a great deal less resources of fuel, metal and other intermediate products.
The desperate attempt on the part of fascist Germany to catch up with the USSR in terms of its rates of development of military production and the amounts of supply for the armed forces turned out to be unsuccessful. Hitler's men did not have sufficient resources for this. By the admission of Hitler's minister of armament, Speer, Germany had lost the war from the standpoint of the possibilities of its economic potential as early as the summer of 1944. The German military economy began to decline at that time.
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