Soviet statistics

James Farmelant farmelantj at
Fri Aug 20 08:07:01 MDT 1999

On Fri, 20 Aug 1999 10:18:28 +0100 "E.C.Apling"
<E.C.Apling at> writes:
>Andy says - the state socialist model is the most successful
>model of the twentieth century.
>Philip says - which explains why, of course, it collapsed.

It is possible that the state socialist model is indeed the most
successful development model for countries navigating the transitions
from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy.  It is also possible
that after an economy has been successfully industrialized this
very same model may act as a fetter on the further development
of the forces of production.

>BUT  Andy is right - it IS the best development model.
>PERHAPS its collapse suggests that economics is not the only factor!!!

Undoubtedly, but economics was a I think the determining factor
in the collapse of the USSR.  The Soviet economy which had successflully
achieved industrialization during the 1930s (which is what made it
for the USSR to stand up against Nazi Germany, instead of collapsing
the way Czarist Russia had done in WW I) and which following WW II
enjoyed several decades of rapid economic growth, began to
experience a slowdown by the late 1970s.  This economic crisis
intensified during the 1980s which drove the effort within the
Soviet elite, to undertake radical reforms, hence Gorbachev.
Unfortunatelyy, Gorby's reforms failed.

>Certainly the GOVERNMENT in the Soviet Union had ceased to be in a
>to galvanise interest or support from the Soviet working class - but
>does NOT mean that the ECONOMIC MODEL had failed...

It was successful in its time  but that time has passed.  The tragedy
for Russia is that so far no other model has been able take its place.
Russia's recent experiment with capitalism has been a dismal failure,
involving at the highest levels, mass theft of unprecedented historical
dimensions, while the majority of people have been plunged into
poverty, unemployment or underemployment and general despair.

In looking at the literature on the Soviet economic model, it seems
that both bourgeois economists and many Marxists have gotten
it wrong.  Bourgeois economists often emphasize the failures
of Soviet state socialism, its inefficiencies and lack of economic
dynamism but they have a hard time explaining the success of
the Soviet model in transforming an agrarian economy into an
industrial one in a relatively short period of time.  They have a
hard time explaining that the Soviet model was able to generate
rapid economic growth, and a rising standard of living which
was shared by most of the population a a fairly egalitarian basis.
Many Marxist writers on the Soviet system have on the other
hand a hard time explaining its failures during the 1970s and 1980s.
They have difficulty in explainin the unraveling of the Soviet model
under Gorbachev and Yeltsin and the failure of the Russian working
class to rise to its defense.

I would suggest that there has been a failure of schools to take a
sufficiently dialectical view of the Soviet experience.  Historical
materialism suggests that a given mode of production can spur
the development of the forces of production at one hiosorical
moment but as these forces develop, the very same mode of
production can act as a fetter on further development of the
productive forces.  I would suggest that the same is tru for the
Soviet state socialist model.  During Stalin's time and for decades
thereafter, it was able to generate economic growth and a rising
standard of living because that system's reliance upon central
planning made it possible allocate resources in specific directions.
An industrializing economy requires the building of infrastructure
such as hydorelectric plants, steel mills, roads, and railroad lines.
It requires that millions of people of peasant origins be reeductated
and retrained so they can become industrial workers.  The Soviet
system was very good at doing these kinds of things.  The fact that
there was in herent in this system all of the inefficincies of resource
allocations that Western economists like to harp about was at this
stage irrelevent.

Eventually though, the Soviet Union did develop into a mature industrial
economy, the kind of central planning that had served it well earlier
began to act as a fetter on further development.  Economic growth
could no longer be generated by simply throwing resources in
one direction at the command of Moscow.  Continued growth now
did depend more upon allocational efficiency.  The market system
associated with capitalism is generally considered to be pretty good
at achieving this kind of efficiency, hence Soviet economic reformers
became interested in ways of integrating market mechanisms into
Soviet state socialism, hence the experiments based on Dr. Lieberman's
ideas during the Kruschev and early Breshnev periods.  Later under
Gorbachev there were renewed attempts at integrating market
mechanisms into the Soviet model and even some effort at
creating a market socialism but these attempts failed.  China
in contrast has had success in incoporating market mechanisms
into it system.  The failure of market reforms in the former USSR
and their relative success in China is something that needs to
be explained.

                Jim F

>Certainly there is a good deal to discuss and learn from here....
>Mailto:E.C.Apling at
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: owner-marxism at
>> [mailto:owner-marxism at]On Behalf Of Philip L Ferguson
>> Sent: 20 August 1999 00:38
>> To: marxism at
>> Subject: Re:Soviet statistics
>> Andy writes:
>> >The bottom line is that the state socialist model
>> >is the most successful development model of the 20th century.
>> Which explains, of course, why it collapsed.
>> Also amusing is that hardly anyone in these countries tried to
>defend this
>> 'most successful development model of the twentieth century'.
>> What did Marx say: social systems collapse when they are worn out
>and can
>> go no further?
>> The state socialist model was a dead-end.  Now it's gone, we can
>look at
>> building something that really will be successful.
>> Forward ever, backward never!
>> Philip Ferguson

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