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Soviet Defense Industry - Storming

The practice the Soviets call "storming" [shturmovshchina] emerged to meet the monthly production and fulfill the monthly plan. Industrial materials were frequently in short supply, and production needed to be carried out as quickly as possible once materials were available a practice known as "storming".

Factories and industrial enterprises were actively encouraged to "achieve at whatever cost", with a strong emphasis placed on overfulfilling stated targets so as to produce as much as possible. For example, the slogan for the first Five-Year Plan, "The Five-Year Plan In Four Years!", called on workers to fulfill the state's objectives a year earlier than planned.

In practically every kind of industrial plant, the pace of the month's work tended to move forward in three distinct 10-day periods described by one Soviet worker as spyachka, "hibernation," gorychka, "hot time," and likhoradka, "feverish frenzy" or "storming."

During the first 10 days of the month, spyachka, key supplies were usually missing, many workers were absent, and little got done. During gortazhka, 10 days during the middle of Lae month, parts start dribbling in from suppliers and the pace increases. In the final 10 days of the month, Likhoradka, the rest of the supplies arrive, and the manager throws in hidden reserves of workers and puts everyone on overtime.

During the storming period, managers put their office staffs on the production line and often work their crews two shifts, 7 days a week. A typical factory may turn out 80% of its monthly quota in those 10 days of storming. The result is fatigue and exhaustion, which leads to the disintegration of the quality of the output. The effects of storming on quality (at least in the civilian sector of the economy) are a disaster. Goods are tagged with the date of production, and consumers try to shun anything made after the 20th of the month.

Storming affected the entire Soviet economy to such an extent that the Soviets developed a term to describe its effect: shtrumousehchina. The bad effects of storming were known to the Soviet leadership, and several schemes to stop it had been proposed over the last 20 years of the Cold War. Some of these were debated all the way up to the Politburo itself, with little apparent effect.

During the Khrushchev era, from 1956 through 1962, the Soviet Union attempted to implement major wage reforms intended to move Soviet industrial workers away from the mindset of overfulfilling quotas that had characterised the Soviet economy during the preceding Stalinist period and toward a more efficient financial incentive. But the prevalence of storming meant that the ability to offer bonus payments was vital to the everyday operation of Soviet industry, and as a result the reforms ultimately failed to create a more efficient system.

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Page last modified: 03-03-2016 16:15:33 ZULU