Guide The turning point : revitalizing the Soviet economy

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It is one the basic tenets of economics. Bureaucracy suppressed innovation. Food and money was confiscated.

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Some of the results of these policies? Hopefully American policymakers can take heed of these lessons as our economy slips further down the freedom scale. Tags: capitalism vs. This entry was posted on November 30, at November 30, and is filed under Book Review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2. You can leave a response , or trackback from your own site. And when you try to remove incentives from an economy, the economy crumbles. Historically, there is no better case study than the Soviet Union on how the vile methods of central planning produced fatally dismal results.

You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. In the photographs taken that day, most appear to have been wearing uniforms: among them were several leading Chekists, including Gleb Boky himself.

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This was the novelist Maxim Gorky. As Likhachev well knew, Gorky was no ordinary visitor. A committed socialist who had been close to Lenin, Gorky had nevertheless opposed the Bolshevik coup in He finally emigrated in , leaving Russia for Sorrento, where he continued, at first, to fire off condemnatory missives and angry letters to his friends at home. Over time, his tone changed, so much so that in , he decided to return, for reasons that are not entirely clear.

Solzhenitsyn rather meanly claims he came back because he had not become as famous as he had expected to in the West, and simply ran out of money. Almost immediately, he set off on a series of triumphal journeys around the Soviet Union, deliberately including Solovetsky in his itinerary.

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His long interest in prisons dated back to his own experiences as a juvenile delinquent. Some remember that camp rules were changed for the day, that husbands were allowed to see their wives, presumably to make everyone appear more cheerful. But the memoirists are divided as to what Gorky actually did when he arrived.

According to Likhachev, the writer saw through all of the attempts to fool him. But although we cannot be certain of what he actually did or saw on the island, we can read the essay he wrote afterward, which took the form of a travel sketch. Gorky praised the natural beauty of the islands, and described the picturesque buildings and their picturesque inhabitants.

On the boat ride to the island, he even met some of the old Solovetsky monks. Gorky also writes admiringly of the living conditions, clearly intending his readers to understand that a Soviet labor camp was not at all the same thing as a capitalist labor camp or a Czarist-era labor camp , but a completely new kind of institution. There is no impression of life being over-regulated.

No, there is no resemblance to a prison, instead it seems as if these rooms are inhabited by passengers rescued from a drowned ship. At one point, he seems to hint at the legendary encounter with the fourteen-year-old boy. During his visit to a group of juvenile delinquents, he writes, one of them brought him a protest note.

Earlier Bolshevik propaganda had defended revolutionary violence as a necessary, albeit temporary evil, a transitory cleansing force. Gorky, on the other hand, made the institutionalized violence of the Solovetsky camps seem a logical and natural part of the new order, and helped to reconcile the public to the growing, totalitarian power of the state.

By that year, the Revolution had matured. Nearly a decade had passed since the end of the civil war. Lenin was long dead. Economic experiments of various kinds—the New Economic Policy, War Communism—had been tried and abandoned. The Revolution had also acquired, by , a very different sort of leader. He launched a series of Party purges, which at first meant Party expulsions, and arranged for them to be announced at emotional, recriminatory mass meetings.

In and , these purges would become lethal: expulsion from the Party would often be followed by a camp sentence—or death. With notable finesse, Stalin had also finished off his most important rival for power, Leon Trotsky. First he discredited Trotsky, then deported him to an island off the Turkish coast, and then used him to set a precedent.

When Yakov Blyumkin, an OGPU agent and ardent Trotsky supporter, visited his hero in his Turkish exile—and returned with a message from Trotsky to his supporters—Stalin had Blyumkin sentenced and executed upon his return. However, in , Stalin was not yet the dictator he would become by the end of the following decade. It is more accurate to say that in that year Stalin put in place the policies that would ultimately enshrine his own power and transform the Soviet economy and society beyond recognition at the same time. At that time, the Soviet Revolution had still not brought real material improvement to the lives of most people.

On the contrary, the years of Revolution, civil war, and economic experimentation had led to greater impoverishment. Food rationing returned.

For a time, the seven-day week—five days of work, two days of rest—was abandoned. Instead, workers rested in shifts, so as to prevent any factory from ever shutting down.


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On high-priority projects, thirty-hour shifts were not unknown, and some workers stayed on the job an average of hours a month. At the same time, no one was allowed to doubt the wisdom of the plan. This was true at the highest levels: Party leaders who doubted the worth of rushed industrialization did not remain long in office.

It was also true at the lowest levels. One survivor of that era remembered marching around his kindergarten classroom, carrying a little banner and chanting:. Alas, the meaning of this phrase—that the Five-Year Plan was to be completed in four years—escaped him entirely. As was to be the case with all major Soviet initiatives, the onset of mass industrialization created whole new categories of criminals.

Formerly a mere paragraph or two, Article 58 now contained eighteen subsections—and the OGPU made use of them all, most notably to arrest technical specialists. Primitive technology, applied too quickly, led to mistakes. Someone had to be blamed. Some of the earliest show trials—the Shakhty trial of , the Industrial Party trial of —were in fact trials of engineers and technical intelligentsia. But there would be other sources of prisoners too.

For in , the Soviet regime also accelerated the process of forced collectivization in the countryside, a vast upheaval which was in some ways more profound than the Russian Revolution itself. Within an incredibly short period of time, rural commissars forced millions of peasants to give up their small landholdings and to join collective farms, often expelling them from land their families had tilled for centuries.

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The transformation permanently weakened Soviet agriculture, and created the conditions for the terrible, devastating famines in Ukraine and southern Russia in and —famines that killed between six and seven million people. Millions resisted collectivization, hiding grain in their cellars or refusing to cooperate with the authorities. The possession of an extra cow, or an extra bedroom, was enough to qualify some distinctly poor peasants, as was an accusation from a jealous neighbor. From one day to the next, trucks and wagons simply arrived in a village and picked up entire families.

Some kulaks were shot, some were arrested and given camp sentences. In the end, however, the regime deported most of them. A further , were arrested, and wound up in the Gulag. As famine kicked in, helped by poor rainfall, more arrests followed. All available grain was taken out of the villages, and deliberately denied to kulaks. Those caught stealing tiny amounts, even to feed their children, also ended up in prison.

They were joined by others, such as the hungry people who received ten-year sentences for stealing a pound of potatoes or a handful of apples.

The impact of these mass arrests on the camps was enormous. Almost as soon as the new laws came into effect, camp administrators began to call for a rapid and radical overhaul of the entire system. As the pace of collectivization and the strength of repression picked up, however—as millions of kulaks were evicted from their homes—such solutions began to seem politically inopportune. Knowing that the prison system was deteriorating as fast as prisoner numbers were rising, the Politburo of the Communist Party set up a commission in to deal with the problem.

Comrade Yanson, the Commissar of Justice, was placed in charge of it. True, the protocol written up after the commission meeting of May 15, , records a few practical objections to the creation of a mass camp system: camps would be too difficult to set up, there were no roads leading to the far north, and so on. The Commissar of Labor thought it was wrong to subject minor criminals to the same punishment as recidivists.

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Yet his point was that the system would look bad, not that it was bad. Nor did anyone mention the alternative theories of criminal justice of which Lenin had been so fond, the notion that crime would disappear along with capitalism. It is already both possible and absolutely necessary to remove 10, prisoners from places of confinement in the Russian republic, whose labor could be better organized and used. Aside from that, we have received notice that the camps and jails in the Ukrainian republic are overflowing as well.