The Political Economy of Stalinism: Evidence from the Soviet Secret Archives

The Political Economy of Stalinism: Evidence from the Soviet Secret Archives

The Political Economy of Stalinism: Evidence from the Soviet Secret Archives

The Political Economy of Stalinism: Evidence from the Soviet Secret Archives

Synopsis

Using formerly secret Soviet state and Communist Party archives to describe the Soviet administrative command system, this study concludes that the system failed not because of Stalin and later leaders, but because of the economic system. It pinpoints the reasons for failure such as poor planning, unreliable supplies, preferential treatment of indigenous enterprises as well as the basic principal-agent conflict between planners and producers, which created a sixty-year reform stalemate. Although the command system was the most significant human experiment of the twentieth century, its basic contradictions and inherent flaws would re-surface if it were to be repeated.

Excerpt

The collapse of the Soviet Union in December of 1991, in some sense, also signaled the end of scholarly study of the Soviet administrative-command economy by economists. As a long-term student of this economy, I was acutely aware that our lack of knowledge about this economy remained considerable. This ignorance was not due to the lack of acumen or effort but to the veil of secrecy that had been erected by Soviet leaders around this system. As Mikhail Gorbachev began his policy of Glasnost in the mid-1980s, the barriers of secrecy began to fall, but the scholarly community had by then turned its attention to more pressing agendas, such as the Soviet system in collapse and then the fundamental issue of its transition. Specialists on the Soviet economy turned primarily to transition as did numerous newcomers to the field, attracted by the challenge of transitioning a planned socialist economy into something resembling a market economy. Few continued to study the fundamental nature of the Soviet administrative-command economy either due to the conviction that we already knew all we needed to know or the belief that there were better uses of our time.

This book studies the creation of the Soviet administrative-command economy in the 1930s. I have written it for three reasons: First, only now is it possible to study the Soviet economic system without the barrier of secrecy. the Soviet State and Party Archives were opened to scholars in the early 1990s, and it is now possible to study the Soviet economy using the very records that its administrators used many years earlier. Moreover, we can read the candid memoirs of actual participants that can now be published with few restrictions or interview those persons who managed the system prior to its demise. Second, I regard the Soviet Union's . . .

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