Leon Trotsky

Soviet Economy in Danger

The Situation on the Eve of the Second 5 Yr. Plan – A Marxian Analysis

(October 1932)

Written: 22 October 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 48, 26 November 1932, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

(Continued from last issue)

The administrative hue and cry after quantity leads to a frightful lowering of quality; low quality undermines on the next stage the struggle for quantity; the ultimate cost of economically irrational “successes” surpasses as a rule many times the value of these same successes. Every advanced worker is acquainted with this dialectic not through the books of the Communist academy (alas! more inferior goods) but in practise, through experience in their own mine-shifts, factories, railroads, fuel stations, etc.

The consequences of the frenzied chase have permeated in all their entirety the sphere of education. Pravda is compelled to admit that, “by lowering the quality of preparation, by skipping scientific subjects, or by passing over them at “cavalry trot”, the VTUZI (Highest Technological Educational Institutions) that took this path instead of aiding industry, injured it.” But, indeed who is responsible for the “cavalry trot” in the highest educational institutions?

If we were to introduce a corrective coefficient for quality into the official data, then the indices of the fulfillment of the plan would immediately suffer substantial drops. Even Kuybishev was forced to admit this more than a year ago. “The figures relating to the tremendous growth of industry become relative,” he announced cautiously at the session of Supreme Soviet Economic Council, “if one takes into account the variations in quality.” Rakovsky expressed himself much more lucidly, “If one does not take into account the quality of production then the quantitative indices represent in themselves a statistical fiction.”

Capital Construction

More than two years ago, Rakovsky warned that the scope of the plan was beyond the available resources. “Neither the scale of the growth of production specified by the plan, “he wrote,” nor the specified plan of capital construction were prepared for ... The entire proceeding policy in the sphere of industry reduced itself in reality to the forced exploitation of old fixed capital ... without the slightest concern for the future.” The attempt to compensate for lapses by a single leap ahead is least realistic in the sphere of capital construction. The resources necessary for the fulfillment of the plan “do not obtain in the country, and will not obtain in the nearest future.” Hence the warning: “the plan of the capital construction will be broken down in a considerable measure.”

And this prediction also has been completely substantiated. In the sphere of construction the lag was extremely great as early as 1931. It has grown still more in the current year. The transport construction program for 9 months was fulfilled 38 percent according to the estimates of the department itself. In other branches the matters relating to construction are as a general rule even less favorable; and worst of all is the sphere of housing construction. The material and monetary resources are divided between altogether too many constructions which leads to the low effectiveness of the investment.

Sixty-five million roubles were expended on the Balhashaisky copper factory, the expenses continue to grow from day to day – factually all for nothing! in order to continue work it was necessary to transport in the course of a year 300 thousand tons of freight, whereas the ready transport provides all told only 20 thousand tons. Examples of a similar kind, though not of such clarity, are too many.

The poor quality of materials and of equipment react most cruelly on the capital construction. “Iron for roofing is of such rotten quality,” writes Pravda, “that it cracks when once handled.”

The shocking lagging behind in the sphere of capital undertakings automatically undermines the foundations of the second five year plan.

Domestic Disproportions and the World Market

The problem of the proportionality of the elements of production and the branches of economy constitutes the very heart of socialist economy. The tortuous roads that lead to the solution of this problem are not charted on any map. To discover them, or more correctly to lay them – is the work of a lengthy and arduous future.

The entire industry groans from the lack of spare parts. Weavers’ looms remain inactive because a bolt is not to be had. “The assortment of articles produced,” writes E.J., “in the line of commodities of widespread consumption is haphazard and does not correspond to .... the demand.”

“One billion roubles has been immobilized, ‘frozen’ by (heavy) industry, in the course of only the first half of 1932, in the form of stocks of materials, unfinished products and even finished goods in factory warehouses.” (For Industrialization, September 12, 1932)

Such are the expressions in terms of money of certain disproportions and discordances according to the official estimate.

Major and minor disproportions call forth the need of turning to the international market. Imported goods to the value of one chervonetz can bring out of its moribund state home production to the value of hundreds and thousands of chervontzi. The general growth of economy, on the one hand, and the sprouting up of new demands and new disproportions, on the other, invariably increase the need of linking up with the world economy. The program of “independence” i.e., of the self-sufficient character of Soviet economy, discloses more and more its reactionary and utopian character. Autarchy – is the ideal of Hitler, and not of Marx, and Lenin.

Thus the import of ore from the inception, of the five year’ plan multiplied five times in volume and four times in value. If within the current year this article of import fell off, it was exclusively on account of the foreign exchange. But on this account the import of factory machinery grew excessively.

Kaganovich in a speech on October 8 asserted that the opposition, Left as well as Right, “proposes to us that we strengthen our dependence upon the capitalist world.” As if the matter concerned some artificial and arbitrary step, and not the automatic logic of economic growth!

At the same time the Soviet press cites with praise the interview given by Sokolnikov on the eve of his departure from London.

“In England there is increasingly spreading the recognition of the fact that the advanced position of the Soviet state in industry and technology will present in itself a much wider market for the products of British industry.”

As a sign of the economic progress of the Soviet Union, Sokolnikov considers not the weakening but the strengthening of the ties with the foreign market, and consequently the strengthening of the dependence upon world economy. Is it possible that the former Oppositionist Sokolnikov is trading in “Trotskyist contraband”? But if so, why is he being screened by the official press?

The Position of the Workers

Stalin’s speech in July 1931 with its salutary “six conditions” was directed against the low quality of the production, the high basic cost, the migration of laboring forces, the high percentage of waste, etc. From that time on there has not appeared an article without reference to “the historic speech”. And in the meantime all these ailments which were to be cured by the six conditions have become aggravated and have assumed a more malignant character.

From day to day the official press bears witness to the downfall of Stalin’s prescription. In explanation of the falling off in production Pravda points out: “The decrease in labor power at factories, the growing migration, the weakening of labor discipline” (September 23). In the category of reasons for the extremely low productivity of the Red Ural combine, For Industrialization, alongside of “the shocking disproportions between the different parts of the combine” lists the following (1) “the enormous migration of labor forces”; (2) “the dunderheaded policy of the working wage” (3) “failure to provide (the millworkers) with some manner of liveable quarters”; (4) “indescribable food for the millworkers ;” (5) “the catastrophic falling off of labor discipline.” We have quoted word for word. As regards the migration, which “has grown beyond all bounds”, this same paper writes, “the living conditions (of the workers) are ghastly in all the enterprises of non-ferrous metallurgy without exception.”

In the locomotive factories, which failed to provide the country with about 250 locomotives for the first three-quarters of the year, “there is to be observed an acute insufficiency of qualified workers. More than 2,000 workers in the course of the summer left from the single Kolomensk factory.” The reasons? “Bad living conditions”. In the Sormovsk factory – “the factory kitchen is a dive of the worst sort.” (For Industrialization, September 28) In the privileged tractor factory in Stalingrad, “the factory kitchen has fallen sharply in its work.” (Pravda, September 21) To what a pitch the dissatisfaction of the workers must have risen in order to force these facts into the columns of the Stalinist press!

In the textile industry, naturally, conditions are not better. “In the Ivanovsk district alone,” E.L. informs us, “about 35,000 qualified weavers left the enterprises.” According to the words of this same paper, there are to be found enterprises in the country in which more than 60 percent of the total force changes every month. “The factory is turning into a thoroughfare.”

In explanation of the cruel flop of “the six conditions” there was for a long time a tendency to confine the observations to bald accusations against the management and the workers themselves, “incapacity”, “lack of willingness”, “resting on their laurels”, etc. However, for the last few months the papers more and more often point out, mostly on the sly, the actual core of the evil, the unbearable living conditions of the workers.

Rakovsky pointed out this reason of reasons more than two years ago ...

“The reason for the increase in breakdowns, the reason for the falling in labor discipline, the reason for the need to increase the number of workers”, he wrote, “lies in the fact that the worker is physically incapable of bearing up under a load that overtaxes his strength.”

(To Be Continued)

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Last updated on: 6 February 2015