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Leftist critique of problems of Soviet planning

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Soviet cogitations: 758
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Jan 2008, 19:10
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Komsomol
Post 20 Nov 2012, 04:43
So there is a mountain of anti-communist literature lambasting the supposed inefficiency of the Soviet economic planning boards. Obviously these guys have an ideological ax to grind and can't be trusted with facts. After all the best supposed capitalist refutation of Socialist planning comes from Hayek and Mises. But they did not predict the USSR would collapse in 1991, according to them, planning was a priori impossible, so the USSR should have collapsed in 1921.

An earlier SE thread on Cybersyn and computers planning mentioned Paul Cockshott.

Luxemburg's_Chef wrote
"Was it not Cockshott who estimated that for a single year plan for Soviet Ukraine it would have taken 15 million years to have plan it efficiently using the old system of balance sheets and trial and error?"

viewtopic.php?f=108&t=38371&start=20

Reading Cockshott's book, he mentioned that USSR growth rate during the "stagnant" 1980s was around 2.5% a year, the same as the Reagan years. But while the Reagan years rewarded the elite extravagantly, the Soviet apparatchiks were forced into relative equality with the masses. 2.5% growth is a lot harder to bear for elites than the masses. In The Haves and the Have-Nots, Branko Milanovic, goes into detail about how the Soviet states were relatively egalitarian societies by the standard of the Gini coefficient. The privileges of the so-called New Class, that Trotskyists and anti-soviets are always harping on like fancy cars or bananas, are minuscule in purely economic terms, although they helped fan resentment. David M. Kotz has done some interesting work along the lines that 1989-1991 was a revolution from above by the Soviet elites who were jealous of the extravagance of their counterparts in the West. So contrary to the "New Class" theorists, the USSR did not fall because the New Class enjoyed too much privilege, but because in their eyes they did not have enough.

http://people.umass.edu/dmkotz/KotzPapers.html

I've read various Left-Communist, Trotskyist, Maoist, Anti-Revisionist, Anarchist critiques of the Soviet system. But they largely focus on purely political aspects. Those critics who recognize the USSR as deformed socialist, usually credit all good aspects to the legacy of Lenin's socialism, and blame all negatives on Stalinist or revisionist state capitalism. Since most left-critics of the USSR consider is state-capitalist they write off most planning problems of the USSR as problems of state capitalism and not of socialism.

I have read some Marxist-Leninist self-critiques of the problems of planning from Communist Party economists from within the Soviet bloc and China.
Kamran Heiss
Soviet cogitations: 29
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 16 Jan 2013, 19:42
Unperson
Post 18 Jan 2013, 13:45
Whether it is social democracy, socialism, market socialism or regulated capitalism, there are factors which will offset each other ending up ruining the economy or ending in marginalizing the consumer or the poor folks. Leninist centralist economy balances all these offsettings making it the best economic model compared to all the rest. Examples: prefabricated walls and building materials manufactured endlessley causing housing projects to outnumber the residents, prevention of wastage causing overproduction of consumer goods to be replaced by production of industrial goods, etc.
Soviet cogitations: 6
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Jun 2014, 02:06
New Comrade (Say hi & be nice to me!)
Post 29 Aug 2014, 02:08
Nobody can ever complain of shortages if you base your research on the business telephone directory. For one product, one manager or production manager and everything will be provided. There were ice cream and cones available in Moscow. Bicycles were manufactured by the millions. They all depend on where resources would be invested. And they all depend on accurate accounting practice and simple algebra and mathematics.
Soviet cogitations: 54
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 19 May 2014, 02:13
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 04 Sep 2014, 01:50
Quote:
So there is a mountain of anti-communist literature lambasting the supposed inefficiency of the Soviet economic planning boards. Obviously these guys have an ideological ax to grind and can't be trusted with facts. After all the best supposed capitalist refutation of Socialist planning comes from Hayek and Mises. But they did not predict the USSR would collapse in 1991, according to them, planning was a priori impossible, so the USSR should have collapsed in 1921.


Precisely, I couldn't agree more. Only one of the many problems with Mises is he doesn't consider economics to be an empirical, evidence based science. Rather his view of "praxeology" essentially states that we cannot use historical or contemporary evidence in economics to confirm or refute anything but rather must rely on abstract logical arguments based on a-priori truths. The results in the false predictions you mention.

Quote:
Reading Cockshott's book, he mentioned that USSR growth rate during the "stagnant" 1980s was around 2.5% a year, the same as the Reagan years. But while the Reagan years rewarded the elite extravagantly, the Soviet apparatchiks were forced into relative equality with the masses. 2.5% growth is a lot harder to bear for elites than the masses. In The Haves and the Have-Nots, Branko Milanovic, goes into detail about how the Soviet states were relatively egalitarian societies by the standard of the Gini coefficient. The privileges of the so-called New Class, that Trotskyists and anti-soviets are always harping on like fancy cars or bananas, are minuscule in purely economic terms, although they helped fan resentment. David M. Kotz has done some interesting work along the lines that 1989-1991 was a revolution from above by the Soviet elites who were jealous of the extravagance of their counterparts in the West. So contrary to the "New Class" theorists, the USSR did not fall because the New Class enjoyed too much privilege, but because in their eyes they did not have enough.


Once again, I couldn't agree more. The interesting thing is that between 1980 and 2008, the bottom 90% of income earners in the United States saw their incomes increase by only 1% (for the bottom 20%, incomes decreased by 7%). Why don't they call 1980-2008 "the era of stagnation"? Because the US writes the history books. If the bottom 90% don't see any wage increases in 30 years of economic development despite the explosion of the internet, information technology and other sciences, then the system isn't working.

The Soviet system was flawed but it was still superior to American or Russian Capitalism, both of which have lead to crumbling infrastructure, police brutality, stagnant wages, high unemployment, wealth inequality, economic crashes (first the 1990s-early 2000s depression in the former USSR) and then the Great Recession (2008-present).

In the Soviet system, universal education, universal litteracy, universal employment, universal healthcare and social security were open to all people. The country industrialized faster than any other in the world. There were more scientists and engineers in the Soviet Union than there were in the United States. In the Soviet Union there were no homeless people (as there were in Tsarist, Yeltsonist or Putinist Russia). There was no starvation (as there was/is in Capitalist Russia and Tsarist Russian Empire). The Soviet Economy at it's best far surpassed capitalism, at it's worst it was certainly no worse and still much better.

Compare and contrast the Soviet Economy with the American, British, German and other Western countries in the 1930s Depression Era. The USSR was surging ahead from a backwards semi-feudal country to a industrialized, modern, developed Socialist planned economy. Meanwhile the United States suffers a financial crisis not because there aren't enough houses for people, but because there are too many (there are 7 times as many houses as homeless people).

And the Soviet Union did this without crippling debt, without exploiting third world countries for cheap labour, without invading resource rich countries to plunder their natural resources etc. In the USSR people lived

Image

In the United States, the percentage of people living in poverty is the same is was in 1965 (15%). Because the US population has increased in this time that means the number of people living in poverty is significantly more than what it was in 1959. If Capitalism results in the number of people living in poverty increases despite 50 years of technological, scientific and industrial advances (not to mention exploitation of cheap labour and natural resources) then Capitalism as a system is a failure.

The Soviet Union reduced poverty enormously, and the growth in industry, agriculture, mining etc enriched the people on a whole. Considering where they started in 1917, it's a human miracle they could talk of surpassing the United States. The Soviet people went from being semi-feudal peasants/recently freed serfs, to engineers/scientists, industrial workers, miners, modern farmers and cosmonauts in a very short time.
Soviet cogitations: 108
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Feb 2014, 12:33
Pioneer
Post 16 Oct 2014, 11:43
That the American economy grew around 2 percent per annum is not the same as the USSR does; the American economy is highly modernized, and therefore its growth potential is much lower, unlike in the Soviet Union which was a developed country which had a much higher growth potential; probably around 7 percent. This is nothing to do with "capitalist" or "communist" sources, but pure facts, an economy like the USSR should at least have grown between 5-7, and in the immediate postwar years it should have grown 8-10 percent (since they started again from scratch in most parts, but this did not materialize). Considering that China has managed to grow 7-11 since the reforms (7 percent today, even if the economy is more advanced then the USSR's, does indirectly pose a problem for the conclusion that the planned economy was somehow successful).

When people refer to the New Class, the question is not how big the differences was but the fact that they were given access to the best goods produced in the Eastern Bloc/world when the ordinary Soviet consumer had to queue for bad products. For instance, according to law an ordinary Soviet could own only a dacha with one the elites had dachas with two. Its strange also that Brezhnev, the leader of a state in which people were supposed to live in equality, owed around 50cars when the ordinary person was barely able to afford one (and if they did, they had to wait for ages to get one..) .. Back to the stores; the nomenklatura had access to their own stores throughout the Soviet Union were the products were of good quality.

To compare the Gini Coefficient between capitalist and communist countries doesn't make sense since USSR officials didn't get paid much better then ordinary workers (similar to present day China), but the problem was that the members of the nomenklatura had access to goods and services in which ordinary people did not have access. Even worse was that the nomenklatura even shut themselves from the local population; the majority of them living in the same area closed from ordinary people. Together with the fact that they had access to things ordinary people didn't their policies did not rrepresent the broad interest of the people. Its easier for a bunch of people living the good life prioritizing the heavy and defence industry then producing light industrial products (consumer goods)...

Another problem is the fact that this was policy, and not something which gradually happened. The fact is that Stalin believed that the revolution "would come to nothing if the nomenklatura were not made materially interested in the process, by acquisition of some property for itself" - he did around the same time as he ended the "class demolition" project begun by Lenin (that educated professionals learn proletarian labour, and the proletarian labourers get access to higher education - Mao later tried the same during the Cultural Revolution, which was a "class-levelling" campaign to fight capitalist decadence and roaders).. At last, Khrushchev, a man you can say many things about, was removed partially because he attacked the position of the nomenklatura (and its culture); he tried for instance to force the children of the nomenklatura to be sent to the countryside to get a proletarian upbringing. This, together with the fact that he introduced term limits to party offices all over the country (which in fact hurt the ruling nomenklatura since their privileges would be "lost"), combined with his foreign and economic policies, got the nomenklatura to remove him and replace him with Brezhnev - a man who reached power because he was well-liked, didn't have any radical ideas and would keep the status quo (best represented by his policy of "stability of cadre").. Its a reason why official extravagence reached their peak under Brezhnev - the man was elected to keep it, together with his general low intelligence. Not that Brezhnev was stupid, he was a great political operator (a creature of the system), but he was one of the people who should by led, and not lead - he had no leader qualities whatsoever. Its a reason why so many of his Politburo colleagues accuses him of that, all from Mazurov, Pelest, Gromyko, Gorbachev, Ryzhkov, Andropov and so on.

Quote:
In the United States, the percentage of people living in poverty is the same is was in 1965 (15%). Because the US population has increased in this time that means the number of people living in poverty is significantly more than what it was in 1959. If Capitalism results in the number of people living in poverty increases despite 50 years of technological, scientific and industrial advances (not to mention exploitation of cheap labour and natural resources) then Capitalism as a system is a failure.

The Soviet Union reduced poverty enormously, and the growth in industry, agriculture, mining etc enriched the people on a whole. Considering where they started in 1917, it's a human miracle they could talk of surpassing the United States. The Soviet people went from being semi-feudal peasants/recently freed serfs, to engineers/scientists, industrial workers, miners, modern farmers and cosmonauts in a very short time.

That you actually wrote that is, well, surprising. From the 1960s on alcoholism was on the rise, the average declined (having been higher then the United States in the 1950s) and so on; the system itself began to rot. At last, this is a system (people here tend to forget), that rotted from within.. This is the country in which the Deputy Chairman of the KGB had proof that Galina Brezhneva, and her husband Yuri Churbanov, were involved in corrupt officials but the investigation was stopped on the orders of Mikhail Suslov - luckily Suslov died shortly afterwords, and the KGB under Andropov continued their investigations eventually arresting both.. If you read the personal accounts of the KGB investigators on the party corruptions they discovered in 1979-1982 you may understand. Truth is, this a system, when Andropov died in 1984, decided to elect Chernenko, a 70-year old something octogenerian who could barely speak (instead of appointing Andropov's prefered successor, Gorbachev, or Grigoriy Romanov, around the same age but clearly more of a Brezhnevite).

At last, even if the planned economy worked, it can't work in the kind of society we live in now; a planned economy is in essence the mass mobilization of people and resources. A modern economy is not based on the mass mobilization of people and resources, but people delivering services - intensive growth, the ability to use the technology we already have and maximise their use. Darn, by the late 1970s (and most notably under Andropov and Gorbachev), the party even admitted the economy was inefficient (investments in the 1970s increased greatly, but labour productivity in all sectors decreased dramatically). Labour productivity increased under Andropov, but sending the KGB to workplaces to ensure that people work seems rather to be proof of the problem rather then as a good fix.

Not only doesn't anything of this make sense, the fact that the planned economy (as created), based on the theory of primitive socialist accumulation, was to force the development from capitalism (NEP) to a socialist society (which they did in 1936, but which doesn't make sense, since according to Marxism a socialist society is more developed then a capitalist society, but as the Soviets acknowledged they were not even close...) But lets say that the Soviets were correct; they had reached socialism, why in goods name didn't the economic system change with the times? The system didn't make sense; the so-called "rationale" system was "irrationale", as Khrushchev said; "Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers." .. Not only this, but the whole planning process didn't make sense; the Soviet navy was forced in the 1930s to accept warships who didn't have guns (because the planners had forgotten...)

The Soviet planned economy didn't work; if Lenin was here he would have accepted that as fact, and moved on and tried to create another form of production instead of living in the past. Lenin was good at; military communism, a failure, introducing NEP. And darn, Lenin learnt something that Stalin never learned; Lenin opposed the creation of a single plan, and was a supporter of many plans alongside eachother (GOELRO plan was one of several plans introduced in the same period, and worked alongside each other).... Stalinism is a failure; there is reason why the only stated following the basic premises of Stalinism is North Korea, a failure in every respect.
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