Can the Soviet Economic System
Alan H. Smith
Economic self-sufficiency and economic survival are not, of course, the same thing. Economic activity, in the sense of the maintenance of the basic acts of production and consumption, must always 'survive' in any situation short of total devastation. The economist, who is mainly concerned with how efficiently economic activity is conducted and the level at which it takes places, would normally consider that an attempt to achieve self-sufficiency would hinder rather than help the efficient working of the economy.
The Soviet analyst however is frequently as much concerned with problems of 'political economy' as with the concept of economic efficiency and it is in this sense that economic self-sufficiency and economic survival may be considered to be complementary. First, economic systems are man- or woman-made and need not necessarily survive beyond the period of office of their creators. One may therefore ask whether the Soviet economic system can survive without substantial reform, and whether a future Soviet leadership may wish to change key features of the economic system. This question is linked to 'self‐ sufficiency' in that the endurance of the basically unreformed Stalinist economic system has depended to a considerable extent on Soviet self-sufficiency in natural resources. This has led many Western analysts to speculate what the effect would be on the Soviet economy and Soviet economic system if domestic demand for energy resources were to outgrow domestic supply.
Secondly, it has been argued that there are crucial areas in which the Soviet economy is dependent on imports, and in particular on imports from the West. This is most noticeable in the case of grain and other agricultural commodities, and in the 1970s has been extended to so‐ called 'high-technology' products. Consequently some observers in the West, and in particular in the USA, have perceived an area in which Western political goals could be achieved by exerting economic pressures. The basic policy of the Carter administration was not to attempt to bring about change in the economic system as such, but to pursue a