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Talk with the Metal Producers

26 December 1934

(In connection with the successful fulfilment by the iron and steel industry of the plan of production for 1934, a delegation of directors, engineers and workers of metallurgical plants was received on December 26, 1934, by Comrades Stalin, Molotov and Orjonikidze.

In the course of the interview Stalin spoke of the tasks facing the iron and steel industry and of certain important problems of socialist development. Stalin said:–)

...We had all too few technically trained people. We were faced with a dilemma : either to begin with giving people technical training in schools and to postpone the production and mass operation of machines for ten years until such time as our schools trained technically educated cadres; or to proceed immediately to create machines and to develop their mass operation in the national economy in order to train people in technical knowledge and to create cadres during the very process of production and operation of machines. We chose the second course. We frankly and deliberately consented to incur what in this case would be inevitable charges and over-expenditures owing to the inadequate number of technically trained people capable of handling machines. True, not a few of our machines were damaged during this period. But, on the other hand, we gained what was most precious time, and created what is most valuable in production- cadres. In a period of three or four years we created cadres of people technically educated both in the sphere of production of machines of all kinds (tractors, automobiles, tanks, airplanes, etc.) and in the sphere of their mass operation. What it took decades to perform in Europe, we were able in the rough and in the main to perform in a period of three to four years. The charges and over-expenditures, the damage to machines and the other losses have been repaid and more than repaid. That is the basis of the rapid industrialisation of our country. But we should not have had these successes if our iron and steel industry had not been developing, had not been thriving.

We have every right to speak of the great successes of the iron and steel industry, which is the chief force in the national economy. We have succeeded it is true. But we must not grow conceited over these successes. The most dangerous thing is when people are complacently satisfied with their successes and forget the shortcomings, forget that further tasks face them...

(Stalin enumerated certain of the shortcomings in the iron and steel industry, indicating how they should be removed.)

In all developed countries, the production of steel exceeds the production of pig iron. There are countries where the production of steel exceeds the production of pig iron by 25 or 30 per cent. With us it is just the opposite - the production of steel lags behind the production of pig iron. How long will this continue? Why, it cannot now be said that we are a "wood" country, that there is no scrap iron in the country, and so on. We are now a metal country. Is it not time to put an end to this disproportion between pig iron and steel?

(The next problem to which Stalin drew the attention of the metal producers was that the open hearth departments and the rolled steel departments of the iron and steel mills were lagging in the matter of mastering the technique of these processes. Stalin said:-)

...Many have wrongly understood the slogan of the Party: "In the period of reconstruction technique decides everything." Many have understood this slogan mechanically, that is to say, they have understood it in the sense that if we pile up as many machines as possible, everything that this slogan requires will have been done. That is not true. Technique cannot be separated from the people who set the technique going. Without people, technique is dead. The slogan "In the period of reconstruction technique decides everything," refers not to naked technique but to technique in the charge of people who have mastered the technique. That is the only correct understanding of this slogan. And since we have already learnt to value technique, it is time to declare plainly that the chief thing now is the people who have mastered technique. But it follows from this that while formerly the emphasis was one-sidedly laid on technique, machinery, now the emphasis must be laid on the people who have mastered technique. This is what our slogan on technique demands. We must cherish every capable and intelligent worker, we must cherish and cultivate him. People must be cultivated as tenderly and carefully as a gardener cultivates a favourite fruit tree. We must train, help to grow, offer prospects, promote at the proper time, transfer to to other work at the proper time when a man is not equal to his job, and not wait until he has finally come to grief. What we need in order to create a numerous army of production and technical cadres is to carefully cultivate and train people, to place them and organize them properly in production, to organize wages in such a way as to strengthen the decisive links in production and to induce people to improve their vocational skill...

Not everything with you is as it should be. At the blast furnaces you have been more or less able to cultivate and organize technically experienced people, but in other branches of metallurgy you have not yet been able to do so. And that is why steel and rolled steel are lagging behind pig iron. The task is to put an end to this discrepancy at last. Bear in mind that in addition to pig iron we need more steel and rolled steel...

(Stalin's speech was followed by a lively exchange of views which lasted uninterruptedly for about seven hours. Responsible workers in the iron and steel industries, mill directors, technical directors, department foremen, Party workers and shock workers took part in the conversation and dwelt in detail on the prospects confronting the iron and steel industry in 1935, the methods by which the problems referred to by Stalin could be solved, and the spirit of creative enthusiasm which reigned in the mills.)

29 December 1934