Isaac Deutscher 1948

Review: Maurice Dobb, Soviet Economic Development Since 1917

Source: International Affairs, Volume 24, no 4, October 1948. Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

Maurice Dobb (Lecturer in Economics in the University of Cambridge), Soviet Economic Development Since 1917 (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1948, pp. 474).

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Mr Dobb’s book is a most impressive and scholarly compilation of economic facts and statistical figures about Russia. The author draws his material from a very large number of original sources, especially from Russian economic periodicals. These are in most cases so dull and uninformative that only those whose job it is to read them can appreciate the industry and patience which Mr Dobb had to apply to the collection of his source material. His work is divided into three parts: the first gives the economic background of pre-revolutionary Russia; the second describes the economic evolution of the Soviets over nearly thirty years; and the third deals with special problems such as methods of planning, the role of finance in a planned economy, the location of Soviet industry and issues of labour policy. Though some chapters are overloaded with irrelevant detail, the book, as a whole, can be used with great advantage for reference purposes.

The analytical part of Mr Dobb’s work, however, is disappointing. The author takes the official Soviet versions and theories at their face value, and finds no inconsistency and no fault whatsoever in Soviet economic policy. Mr Stalin appears to have been always in the right no matter what he did, whether, for instance, he defended the muzhiks against the Trotskyist opposition or whether he imposed collectivisation on the muzhiks. Mr Dobb has not a critical word to say about the absence of any specific statistical data on the Soviet system of wages and salaries. But it must be said that though he expounds the accepted Soviet economic theory, he does so with much more intelligence and common sense than can be found in the writings of Russian economists of the last decade or so.