** war and social upheaval: Soviet Communism economics








Soviet Communism: Economy


Figure 1.--Here we see weary Russians standing in a long queue to buy meat--note their expessions. As you can see, consumers were not high on Soviet economic priorities. For Soviet leaders, consumers were basically an inconvenience when most of the econmy was orientedf towad building a powerful military. This photigraph was takjen in Ufa, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Bashkortostan (commonly called Bashkiria) in Russia, just west of the southern Ural Mountains.

The economy of the Soviet Union was based on Marxist economic theory. Karl Marl ws, however, an idealistic academic. The Bolsheviks who seized control of Russia found that his theories could not easily be introduved. Not only was Marx an idealist, but he believed the Communist Revolution would take place in the advanced industrial states of Western Europe, not backward, largely agricultural Russia. Thus Lenin saw the need to modify Marxist doctrine. He even allowed limited private enterprise to rescue the failing Soviet economy--the New Economic Policy. This was, however, a short-lived experiment, quickly ended after Lenin's death and the rise of Stalin. Because Lenin and Stalin so modified Marxist doctrine, the economic system of the Soviet Union was described as Marxist-Leninist. This is a misnomer, as the system has a great deal due to Stalin. The basic modification of Marxism made by Lenin and Stalin was the creation of an all-poweful state. This was one way of doing away with private property as Marx wanted, it was also instrumental in bulding a totalitarian state through which Stalin could control every aspect of Soviet life. The Soviet Marxist-Leninist economic system as it evolved included state ownership, collective agriculture, and central planning. The economy not only involved state control and public ownership, but also a drive for autarky. The Soviets ignored the liberal doctrine of free trade which saw benefits in each country engaging in economic activities for which it was best suited because of climate, natural resources, and other factors. Examples would be Ecuador produced bananas, France wine, and Sri Lanka tea. Soviet economics was based on a policy of autarky. The Soviets sought to avoid imports and either produce everything domestically, often at substantial cost, or do without. The Soviet Union could produce bananas, wine, and tea, but not at the same quality, but at far greater expense than importing such items. Under Stalin , the NEP was scrapped. And the Soviet economy was directed by a series of Five-Year Plans (beginning in 1928). Under these plans, the Soviet Union (especially the Russian and European SSRs were transformed from a largely agrarian society to one of the world's largest industrial nations. The Five Year Plans were overseen by Gosplan. Unlike industries in the West, Soviet industries were not subject to cost limits. The resut that while Soviet industry for a time grew rapidly and reported impressive production quotas, the products were often of low quality and the operations highly ineffiuient. This was not, however, fully understood until the Soviet economy began to stagnate in the 1970s measured in growth rates. Western industries had to produce a product consumers demanded and they had to add value. This was not the case in the Soviet Union. Consumers had relatively little influence and Soviert companies often were priducing goods that were worth less than the raw materials used to produce them. Soviet colletivized agriculture proved to be more of an economic failure than industry.

War Communism (1917-21)

The Russian economy including the agricultural sphere was devestated by first World War I (1914-18) and then the Civil War (1919-21) which followed the Revoultion. And the Bolsheviks early steps to introduce socailism made matters worse than the wars. The first Bolshevik economic policy was War Communism -- the seizure of factories and other productive facilities. Lenin's policy of War Communism involved the seizure of private property from the businessmen, aristocrats, land owners, farmland, factories, mills, railroads, banks, the church, and other property owners. There was no compensation [Lenin] One authir writes, "... the Bolsheviks' success on the battlefield led them to overestimate their abilities and achievenments on the economic 'front'. They came to believe that they could apply the draconian measures used to fight the Civil War to the construction of 'socialism,' or 'communism'--indeed, they assumed that they were well on the way toward its construction, and without the assistance of the revolution in the West, only recently consudered essential." [Patenaude] It is easy to understand this. There was no Marxist theiory on winning the Civil War, but Marxist theory armed then with what they were convinced was the key to a prosperous future--scientifically based socialism. War communism, however, was an disaterous economic failure. Food supplies rose at first with seizures from the peasantry, but industrial production and employment, harvests, and living standards soon began falling. This resulted in some Bolsheviks advocating for extending control over peasant farming--actually seizing the land. Only a year ot two earlier the Bolsheviks were promissing land to the peasantry. The justification for the failure of War Communism was that the Russian people were not equipped or preplared for such a drastic change. The falibility of socialism could not be questioned. So the obsious anser was to remake people. Apologists explain that Lenin eroniously attempted to plunge into full-blown Communism. And as a result of War Communism, unemployment and inflation surged. Banks, manufacturing and retail operations were nationalized. Peasant harvests were seized by force. The Bolshevik vision was that food and goods would become state properity and be evenly distributed to the people. Forced-labor policies were adopted. Civilian and soldiers were required to work for the new Soviet state. Food supplies rose at first, but industrial production and employment, harvests, and living standards fell continuously. This resulted in some Bolsheviks advocating for extending control over peasant farming. The result was economic collapse and famine. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were not moved by millions who began to sdtarve. They were moved by building violent opposition -- worker-peasant-sailor uprisings January-March 1921). One author writes, "Lenin recognized that the government would have to seize the land of tens of millions of peasants, who surely would resist. He tried during the Russian Civil War (1918-1920), but retreated in the face of chaos and five million famine deaths." [Caplan] Remenber the Bolshevik's prmised the peasants land. Many peasants had seized land after the Tsarist regime collapsed (February 1917).

The New Economic Policy -- NEP (1921-28)

Lenin adopted the New Economic Policy (NEP) to get Russian economy functioning again (1921). The NEP was a series of market (i.e. market reforms meaning capitalism) designed as a temprary porogram to reintroduce limited private owenership back into the Soviet economy. One might ask, if socailism was such an effective economic system, why were market reforms needed. The NEP was designed to attract the capital needed for econonc activity. Lenin's plan was to partly restore the capitalist economy until it was strong enough to sustain socialism. This of course meant that capitalism was a stronger economic systems as the Asian Tigers and China would would eventually realize. Lenin initated tge NEEP with the Tax In Kind policy (April 25, 1921). It repalaced the 'surplus-food appropriation' with a fixed tax that would be announced in advance. The would be small and affordable. This was vital becaise the economy was primarily based on agriculture. The rural peasantry made up the vast proprtion of the Russian population, but the Revolution had been largely led by the urban proletariat. The NEP allowed small-scale private economic activity, Foreign trade and the leasing of enterprises. The NEP was a considerable success. Lenin died (1924) He had been the chief propnent of the NEP. The fact that the NEP resulted in increased production and relative prosperity does not seem to have entered into Stalin's thinking. Stalin who was gaining control of the Party and Soviet state had other goals in mind, namely the absolute control of the Soviet economy and rapid industrialization. Stalin replaced the NEP with the First Five Year Plan (1928). Stalin assessment was that the NEP was not only a mistake in the first place, but had gone dangerously far with free-market activity. There were others in the Bloshevik leadership that the NEP could have led to a permanent Soviet capitalist economy, anethma to the mkers of the Revolution. Stalin not only terminated the NEP, but alsop most of the Old Bolsheviks who were targetted in the Great Terror.

Marxist-Lenninist Economics

The economy of the Soviet Union was based on Marxist economic theory. Karl Marl ws, however, an idealistic academic. The Bolsheviks who seized control of Russia found that his theories could not easily be introduved. Not only was Marx an idealist, but he believed the Communist Revolution would take place in the advanced industrial states of Western Europe, not backward, largely agricultural Russia. Another problem was while Marx went on a length about capitalism and the state structure supporting it, he provided relatively little infrmation about the communist wiorker's paradise. Thus Lenin was left with the difficult job of creating a Soviet state to create Marxist cimmunism. He saw the need to modify important elements of Marxist doctrine. He even allowed limited private enterprise to rescue the failing Soviet economy--the New Economic Policy (NEP). This was, however, a short-lived experiment, quickly ended after Lenin's death and the rise of Stalin. Because Lenin and Stalin so modified Marxist doctrine, the economic system of the Soviet Union was described as Marxist-Leninist. This is a misnomer, as the system has more to do with Stalin than Lennin. The basic modification of Mrxism made by Stalin was the creation of an all-poweful state. This was one way of doing away with private property as Marx wanted, it was also instrumental in bulding a totalitarian state through which Stalin could control every aspect of Soviet life.

Major Tennants

The Soviet Marxist-Leninist economic system as it evolved included state ownership, collective agriculture, and central planning. The economy not only involved state control and public ownership, but also a drive for autarky. The Soviets ignored the liberal doctrine of free trade which saw benefits in each country engaging in economic activities for which it was best suited because of climate, natural resources, and other factors. Examples would be Ecuador produced bananas, France wine, and Sri Lanka tea. Soviet economics was based on a policy of autarky. The Soviets sought to avoid imports and either produce everything domestically, often at substantial cost, or do without.

Private Property

A Russian reader tells us about private property in the Soviet Union. "In Soviet socialistic society it was forbidden to have private property at all. There was a strict distinction between "personal property", like clothes, furniture, tableware, home electronics - and "private property", i.e. property, that could been used to gain profit. Surely there were some exceptions - for example, state farm workers were allowed to sell on the market fruits and vegetables that planted on small plots alloted to them. Also craftsmen were allowed to make and hand-made wood-carven toys in Russian folk style or alike. But, for example, 'speculation' - i.e. when somebody bought something by one price and then sold it for a higher price - it was a crime and you could even be jailed for this. Moreover, there was a strict distinction between 'personal property' and "state property". If, for example, for stealing personal property a citizen couldn't been injailed more than 8 years long, for stealing state property priced more than about US$15,000 could incur the death penalty."

Profit

Kark Marx in Das Kapital wrote at length on 'profit'. His economic analysis of capitalism was based on what is called the 'the labor theory of value'. Marx defined capitalist profit as the 'extraction of surplus value' from the exploited proletariat. This was the central condemnation of capitalism. It was by definition explotive. Only workerers created value. Any one between the worker and the consumer justvas investors, businessmen, wjlesalers, retailers, advertisers (Marx wrote before advertiswrs were very important) were superfluous and thus social psarasites exploting the true creaters of value--the workers. Mark would have thought men like Microsoft's Bill Gates or Apple's Steve Jobs as a social parasites who exploited thge company's workers. This concept not only dominated Soviet economic thinking, but has affected how many in the West assess corporate profits. Sucessfulmncompanies are often criticised for excessive profits. Anfgiven this concept of profits, Soviet factory managers were not pressured or rewarded for making profits. Rather their primary objective was to meet assigned quotas (often with weak quality controls) and provide employment.

Five Year Plans

Under Stalin beginning in 1928, the Soviet economy was directed by a series of Five-Year Plans. Under these plans, the Soviet Union (especially the Russian and European SSRs were transformed from a largely agrarian society to one of the world's largest industrial nations. The Five Year Plans were overseen by Gosplan. Unlike industries in the West, Soviet industries were not subject to cost limits. The result that while Soviet industry for a time grew rapidly and reported impressive production quotas, the products were often of low quality and the operations highly inefficient. This was not, however, fully understood until the Soviet economy began to stagnate in ther 1970s. Western industries had to produce a product consumers demanded and they had to add value. This was not the case in the Soviet Union. Consumers had relatively little influence and Soviet companies often were producing goods that were worth less than the raw materials used to produce them. Soviet colletivized agriculture proved to be more of an economic failure than the country's industry.

Soviet Industry

One of the achievements the Soviet Union considered most important was the conversion of largely agricultural Tsarist Russia into the heavily industrialized Soviet Union. Like much of Soviet histrography, this is only partly true. It is true thtat under Soviet rule, especially Stalinist Five Year Plans, there was a huge expansion of havy inustry. What Soviet propganda excludes is that indistry was growing very rapidly during the final years of the Tsarist industry. And unlike Soviet industry, Tsarist industry was both profitable and productive, meaning that the value of industrial output was worth more hn the vlue of the inputs. Tsarist trade policy favored domestic production, but did not pursue autarky an prohibit foreign imports. The Soviet Union both before and after World War II did not produce a single product that could be sold in quntity in Wesrn markets. The Soviet Union is the only major industrial power that did not produce a songle product that Western consumers could identify. The only quality products recogbizable to the West are military products like the T-34 tank or AK-47 automatic rifle. Consumer products were a very different matter. A British reader writes, "I recall a Soviet made portable VHF short wave radio which was given a high rating in the consumer magazine Which. It was rated the best. I bought one and it gave many years of good service. I picked up stations from all over the world. The year was 1971." We have also read about a Soviet camera. We did not mean to suggest that the Soviets exported nothing. But rather no significant manufactured products exported in substantial quantities. But my guess is not one Briton in a hundred thousand could name the company involved. Yet almost anyone can off the top of their heads name American, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and other companies producing important producrs. We do not know the name of the Soviet companies exporting to Britain. We would be willing to wager that it no longer exists. Our guess is that the Soviets were selling these products for less than the cost of production which is why the sales never became significant and the companies involved no longer exist. This may sound strangethat the cost of inputs exceeded the value of the manufactured product. It was, however, the core reason the Soviet Union imploded. Notice that Soviet manufacturing concers (unles producing military wepons) largely dusappeared and factories shit own aftr the Siviet Union collapsed. They Soviets exported a few products beccause they needed foreign exchange so badly to buy agicultural products are foreign high-tech products. We believe that any oroduct that could be sold in the West was not widely available to the Soviet people themselves. Not that no one had them, but for the better products our British reader describes, only a fraction of the Soviet people who wanted them could get theirvhands on one. We have our doubts that the NKVD/KGB wanted large numbers of people to listen to foreign radio broadcasts. And in Easten Europe they were actively trying to block foreign radio broacasts. Not only were many Soviet products worth less than the cost of inputs, but they were not inovative. They may have been wll ngineered, but the technology was basically well established. New products with advanced technology such as transistors, VCRs, computers, compact discs, video camera all came from the West. And today modern Russia has an economy based on exporting oil like an Arab shiekdom. Russia does not export a single no-military product of any importance.

Agriculture

The Bolshviks had promissed the Russian people "Peace, land and bread." This was the battle cry of the 1917 October Revolution (old calendar) that brought the Bolsheviks to power. It mean that capablefarmers now owned and farmed landed boken up from the great estates. And their harvests were the source of great wealth, feeding both Russia ahnd exporting large quantities of grain. For a short period there ws some similarity between Soviet and American agriculture. Stlin ws not, however, happy with the situation. Private ownership of the land meant that there was a very substantil part of the economy that he did not control;. Worst still, a substabtial part of it was in the hands of Ukranians who did not ageee with many aspects of the the Soviet atheist regime. Stalins agricultural policy was to kill the best farmers (kulaks), seize the land for collectives, and redircect a greater share of the profits to the cities for his industrial Five Year Plans. Forsaking he Bolevik promise of land for the peasantry, Stalin in essence converted the entire Soviet Union into a vasr estate with the statethe land owner. The result in addition to the trgic Ukranian Famine was a sharp reduction in Soviet grain and livestock production. Stalin did significantly expand Soviet industry. A more difficult uestion to nswr is if industry could not have been expanded faster if Soviet agricultural harvests had not been so sharrply reduced. Thoughout the ensuing history of the Siviet Union, agriculture ould be arenoal weak spot despite the rich agricultural lands the country possessed.

World War II

One fascinating period in Soviet economic history is that the Soviet economy out performed the German economy. This is stunning given the kmages we have of German efficency and Soviet bumbling, but it was absolutelty true. While comparions with the Soviet Uniion and other countries are estimates at best because of the lack of reklaible Soviet data, available information suggests that the German and Soviet economies were aboyt the same sice in GDP terms. The Germans had a larger industrial sector and the Soviets a larger agricultural sector even after Stalin's destructive collectivization program. The German advantage in heavy industry, especially steel production, would seen to give the Germans a significant military advantage. This basic NAZI-Soviet equilibrium was shattered by the German Barbarossa invasion (June 1941). The Germans in a few short months occupied a large area of the wastern Soviet Unioin, including the most important indistrail and agriculatural areas. The Germans were stunned as they moved east with how backward the Soviet Uniin was. It was difficult to believe tey were still in Europe. So how was it possible that the Soviets outproduced the Germans in many important weapons systems?

Competition

Marx was an economist. And despite being familiar wuth both Grmany and Britain, he missed vital strengths of Capitalism which was creating vast wealth and bringing a decent standard of living to millions in both countries as well as America and other countries. One vital component of capitalism was competition. Having to compete with other companies drive innovation abd efficencies. And this was an element totally lacking in the Marxist vision. And it was lacking in the Soviet Union. It did not make a huge difference at fitst. The companoes could keep running as there was no competitors tob force them out of business. And in the Siviet planned economy. raw materials arrived. The companies did not have to pay for them. But withoutinnovabtion and eddicent operations, wealth was not being created. This amd massive military spending thus limited what workers could be paid and the Soviet standard of living. This also limited the growth of the Soviet economy and ability to compete with the West. And once the Soviet Union imploded, Russia and the other former Soviet republics were left with factiories that were inefficent and unable to compete. In many cases the value of the product produced was ctually worth less than the raw matrial inputs. This is part of the reason thar Russia today with all its technical expertise has an economy based on exporting oil and other raw materials, like a Third World country without a undeveloped economy and uneducated work force.

Work Force


Soviet Clothing Industry: Fashion

There was a deep social divide with how Russians dressed historically affluent Russians wore Oarisian fashions and clothes made in luxurious fabrics while the vast peasantry trapped in mdevil serfdom wore clothes made at home from rough home-spin fabrics. This had change somewhat by yhe advent of the 20th century. Russian had a rapidly growing economy weith new indusdtries, rapidly growing cities, and a still small but growing middle-class which dresses fashionably, but not necessarily luxriously. Still there was an enormous fashion divide with the still huge peasantry and groeing industrial working-class. This was deep resented by the indystrialworking class, more than the less politically aware rural peasantry. One source writes, "The bitterness of the ower classes towards anyone who carried the outer signs of the privleged classes became accentuated to the extent that it was impossible, for instance, to travel in the tram [city streetcars] without becoming the target of cursing." [Maler, pp. 56, 98.] During the Civil War people could be shot by the Red Gurds by the way they dressed, identifying them as class enemies. And these attitudes persisted in Russin society into the Soviet era. The question of fashion was hotly debated in Soviet newspaoers and magazimnes. (The same occrred with even more venom in Communist China during the Maoist era--it was the nature of the collosion of fashion and Communism. Any tpe of freedom such as fashion inevitably collides with Comminism.) One historian writes, "At the time it would have been difficult to omagine that these hated objects, which in the eyes of the victorious proletariat symbolized the former luxurious life iof the exploiters, would in less than 20 years turn into cherished symbols of the real socilist culture legitimsted by Soviet power. Nevertheless, the association between the sovial status of the citizen and his or her clothing, dress code, etc., which went back in history was deeply rooted in the consciousness of the common man and woman, never totally disappeared in later Soviet times either." [Grownow and Zhuravelev] Soviet fashion became a running joke during the Stalinst era when even high finctionsries travelng to the West arrived in baggy ill-fitting suits. I can recall when I showed my Russian history students Soviet films (supplied by the Soviet Embassy), the girls in particular were starteled by the fashions they saw (1970s). One TV wag made a joke showing a plump Soviet woman in a dowdy, baggy dress and then for evening wear (meaning going out to a fashionable event), the same woman and drab, baggy dress holding a flash light. The Soviets made attemots at fashion, nut could bever get it right--Western jeans sold at hig prices throughout the Soviet era. One fascinating episode in the Cold War is when French fashion icon, Christian Dior, somehow managed to send three willoy French models in the latest Parisian fashions to Moscow -- Dior in Moscow (1959). Fashion was a dilemma for Soviet leaders. They were somewhat embarassed that they and the population of a People's Pardicee dressed so shabably, but on the other habd saw fashion as a distraction and a waste of resources in the Cold War struggle with the United States. The consumer sector in general was neglected in favor okf heavy industry and the military. This showed up in the famous Kitchen Debate betweem Anerican Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park, one of Moscow's important municipal parks (1959). The problem for the Soviet's was human nature. They were trying to build the new Soviet Man. (The Soviet's always talked abiout the new Soviet Man, never the New Soviet Woman.) But despite years of Soviet teaching and proppganda, Russian women wanted to look (cosmetics were an even greater Soviet failure) and dress well.

Soviet Feminism

Soviet schools taught children that is was the Communism Revolution that won rights for women. This was not entinerly accurate. It is certainly true that women had few rights in Tsarist society. The literally inclined will be aware of this as it is escribed in some detail by Tolstoy in Anna Karenia. There was no movement like the Suggregette Movement in the West because the Tsarist state was an absolutist monarchy. Men also did not have the right to vote. Women had few rights under Tsarist law. They were not quite propery of their athers and husbands, but close to it. They had responibility for domestic duties. Working-class women also often had to work outside the home to support the family. Women could not hold governmental office, even upper-class women. Tsarist Russia began building a public school system in the late-19th century. The schools were mostly for boys, although in the early-20th century we see some girls in primary schools. Only aristocratic women received any serious education and even their education was usually limited. We do not see women in the univeitie or evem secondary schools. Peasant women were motly illiterate, although we do see girls in some of the rural primary schoold by the early-20th century. There was a Tsarist women's organization--the Russian League of Women's Equality. The League was composed of hundreds of chapters throughout the country. It was a somewhat more respectable, sedate group than Western sufregette movements. This all began to change with World War I and the resulting Russian Revolution establishing a Provisinal Government (February 1917) which was several months before the Bolshevik (Communnist) Revolution. The Provisinal Government published its program in the newspapers (March 3). It established a parlimentary democracy with universal male sufferage. The women were not pleased. The League raised the issue and sent a petition to Prince Lvov, the first prime-minister. He ignored it. Some 40,000 women marched through St. Petersburg, the capital (March 19). The procession was headed by formidablw women on horseback, followed by two bands. The venerable revoluntinary Vera Figner rode in a car in the midst of the protest march. The women reached the State Duma and demanded a meeting with the deputies. Extended negotiations continued into the night. The primen-minister gave in, conceding the right to vote. Seven months later the Bolsheviks seized power leading to radical policies although the right to vote was soon lost. Three pioneering revolutionaries began early experiments with radical policies. Most prominent was Nadezhda Krupskaya because she was was Lenin's wife. She was a respected Bolshevik with revolutionary credentials of her own. he had a special interest in . in her own right. She was her husband's personal secretary and confidant, as well as a long-time advocate of women�s education. She met Inessa Armand, another female Bolshevik, while in exile. She was Secretary for the Committee of Foreign Organisations, coordinating the work of Bolshevik groups in exile. Alexandra Kollontai was pushing a feminist agenda of her own. After the Bolshvik seizure of power, they began pursuing issues concerning women and family life. They petitioned the Party to create a Committee dedicated to addres women's and family issues. The resulting comittee was Zhenodtel. Zhenodtel was active throughout the country, advocating some radical policies, including emancipation from housework and assistance to entering the workforce. Stalin who had traditional ideas about the family and barely tolerated Krupskaya put an end to Zhenodtel (1930). While Stalin ended radical reforms, the Bolsheviks put a major emphasis on education, including the education of women.

Consumers

Western economies are primarily driven by comsumers. This was less somewhat true in Germany where the Government played an important than Britain and America where the Government played a smaller role. Thus companies to be successful had to provide what the consumer wanted, a high-qualuty product at an appealing price. This was another mechanism dribing both innivation and efficency. Western compnies not only met condumer demand, but created products that the consumer did not even know he wanted until they appeared. Consumers of course also existed in the Soviet Union and they had some impct on production. Their impct was, however, much more limited thn in the West. You can see tht if you went inti aSoviet-era store. The clerks treated the custimers as if they were doing them big favor by waiting on them. The focus on he military and heavy industyry meant that the supply of consumer goods was very limited. Thus Soviets consumers were forced to acceot wat ever appeared in the shops without any real choice. The result was the quality control of Soviet-era manufavturers was poor. The emphasis was kon meeting or exceeding profuction quota, not on producing a product the consumer wanted or was pleased with.

Economic Weaknesses

Economically, the Soviet system simply did not generate sufficient wealth to sustain its political, social and economic ideals as well as provide the needs of its people. This is striking because the Soviet Union included some of the richest agricultural land in the world and a vast depository of natural resources and a well-educated population. Why with all those assetts was the Soviet Union economy so weak? There are a range of reasons. One factor is that the Soviet economy never recovered from the colectivization of agriculture. As a result, agriculture did not provide a surplus to help finance industrialization. Command economics is part of a reason. Trying to centrally manage the economy created many distortions as did the inefficent use of investment capital. The Soviet Union also stifled individual initiative which proved such a vital part of Western economies. Instead huge resources were devoted to an unproductive beaureacracy and equality unproductive military and security services. Without allowing consumer demand to play a role in the ecomomy, the force of creative destruction never acted to eliminate wasteful and unproductive state enterprises. There are almost unbelieveabke accouts about factory owners having a directive to make goods for which there was not demand. Once made and quota fullfilled they could not be sold so metal products might be melted down to make something which there was a market.

Pollution

Pollution is not exclusive to our modern world, but became apparent as industry expanded in the 19th century. The first fully conceived instances were the London Fog and the need for sewer systems in modern cities. American and the Western European countries first began addressing the problem seriously after World War II wih laws to clean up the air and rivers polluted by indusurial emissions and runoff. For many in tghe West it seemed a problem primarily associated with capitalism. Corporations in an effort to make profits made no effort to limit or control emmissions of pollutants into the air and industrial run off. This became a major concern in the 1960s and 70s. The problem in the West was addressed through a free press and the political and legal system. Voters demanded action frim their elected representatives. And agrieved parties could go into the courtsfor redress. Gradually laws and court cases convinved corportations that it was more cost effective to deal with the pollution problem. We heard nothing about pollution behind the Iron Curtain. Many assummed that because the Soviet Government owned and operated the factories that officials would not permit serious environmental problems to develop. We now know that nothing could be further than the truth. Even without the Western profit system, Soviet policies had created vast envirinmental problems. The situation in Cental Asia was a major problem, but factory managers throughouut the Soviet Union gave no attention to emissions and industrial runoff. It ws not that these problems did not exist, it was just that the Soviet press was not allowed to report on the problems which would impair the propaganda line of a perfect society. Only with General Secretary Gorbechev's Glasnost policy did we begin to learn about the hitherto hidden problem of pollution in the Soviet Unuon. The same dynamic was at play in the Soviet Unions'd Eastern European empire which became known only after the fall of Communism.

Sources

Caplan, Bryan. "Communism," The Library of Economics and Liberty (Undated).

Gronow, Jukka and Sergey Zhuravlev. Fashion Meets Socialism: Fashion industry in the Soviet Union after the Second World War (Finnish Literature Society: 2015).

Lenin, V.I. Selected Works in One Volume (New York: International Publishers Co., Inc., 1974).

Maler, N. "Shuzhba v. Komissariate yustitsii i narodnom sude." In Arkchiv russkoi revolutsii. T. VIII (Berlin: 1923).

Patenaude, Bertrand M. "Peasants into Russians: The Utopian essence of War Communism," The Russian Review Vol. 54, No. 4 (Octoiber 1995), pp. 552-70. The author found this idea expressed in Iurii Libedinskii's 1925 novel Komissary







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Created: 9:10 PM 7/19/2010
Last updated: 9:10 AM 9/11/2021