The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview

NOTES

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nikolai Shmelev is an economist at the Institute of USA and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and served as a member of the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies.


19 Sources

VASILY SELYUNIN

Wealth is created by work and work alone. But what force makes people work when everything is held in common? In his "Utopia," Sir Thomas More dealt with the problem by proposing the institution of public overseers whose sole job was to make sure that no one remained idle. Thus the Utopian hit on an important truth: The only alternative to personal gain as a stimulus to work is noneconomic compulsion.

The founders of scientific socialism were somewhat less simple and clear in dealing with this problem. While Engels denied that there would be any differences in remuneration for work in a socialist society, he never dealt with the problem of what would replace previous incentives for work. Marx, on the other hand, admitted differences in pay in accordance with the quantity and quality of people's work, but he observed that as long as such arrangements existed, "equal rights are, in principle, still bourgeois rights."

Many thinkers of the past have assumed that the need for extrinsic incentives for work would eventually disappear as work became people's primary need in life and a matter of the play of their physical and spiritual forces. The strength of such theories is that they cannot be refuted, since the hypothetical conditions on which they are based are only supposed to arise in the future. History, on the other hand, provides the purely negative example of the Jacobins. Some of the harshest measures of the Reign of Terror were motivated by a misguided attempt to impose economic equality by outlawing market relations.

Whereas the Jacobins represented a temporary deviation from the main direction of the French Revolution, the situation is more complex when it comes to socialist revolutions, for which the elimination of market-based production [tovarnoye proizvodstvo] is not just a deviation from the goal but the goal itself.

Following the victory of the October Revolution, Lenin insisted that the elimination of big capital was not sufficient by itself to suppress the bourgeoisie. Thus,

-271-

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