The USSR's drive for crude growth

Submitted by martin on 14 September, 2021 - 9:14
Industrialisation in the USSR

Tony Southwell (Solidarity 605) argues that industrial growth in the Stalinist economies was a matter of “conscious decision-making of the bureaucracy... choices”, and so not “organic”.

But, as Marx put it, “social existence determines consciousness”. The leading bureaucrats in Stalinist states were not people dropped from the sky who might opt to plan for industrial growth, or just as well as opt to plan to wind back to subsistence agriculture plus growing a few flowers.

Their consciousness was shaped and selected by “social existence” organic to the system.

International pressures drove them to maximise growth. And, as Tony recognises, there were also internal pressures. Certainly once the bureaucracy became self-reproducing, people would rise to the “top” on the basis of commitment and performance in maximising growth.

Timothy Dunmore’s book on the USSR economy 1945-53 is instructive here. He shows that in the Stalinist system a drive for crudely-measured growth sometimes even swamped the planners when they wanted to be subtler.

In that period the top USSR leaders, probably fearful of post-war worker revolt, planned on paper for a shift to lighter consumer-goods industries. The bosses in heavier industry, with their greater already-acquired economic weight, were able to nullify the planned shift and keep the focus on crudely-measured growth in their own domains.

Alan Gilbert, London

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