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. 49, 3 December 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)

But why are the living conditions bad? The papers refer in explanation to “the contemptuous (!) attitude to the questions relating to the living conditions of the workers and to providing them with the necessities of life.” (F.I., September 24). With this single expression the Stalinist press has said more than it had intended. “A contemptuous attitude” to the needs of the workers in a workers’ state is possible only on the part of an arrogant and uncontrolled bureaucracy.

This risky explanation was made necessary, no doubt, in order to hide the basic fact: the direct lack of material goods to supply the workers. The national income is incorrectly distributed. Economic tasks are being set without any account being taken of the actual means. An increasingly inhuman load is being dumped on the shoulders of the workers.

References to “breaks” in the supply of foodstuffs are now to be met with in every number of the Soviet press. Malnutrition plus forced exertions. The combination of these two conditions is enough to do away with the equipment and to exhaust the producers themselves. In consolation, Pravda prints a photograph of a working woman in the act of feeding “her own private” pig. That is precisely the way out. “Private domestic economy”, lectures the paper (October 3), “hitherto tied the worker to capitalism but now it attaches him to the Soviet system.” One cannot believe one’s eyes! Once upon a time we learned that private domestic economy depends upon the enslavement of the woman, the most abominable element of social slavery in general. But now it appears that “its own private” pig attaches the proletariat to socialism. Thus the hypocritical functionaries turn cruel necessity into virtue.

Poor nourishment and nervous fatigue engender an apathy to the surrounding environment. As a result, not only the old factories but also the new ones that have been built according to the last word in technology, fall quickly into a moribund state. Pravda itself issues the following challenge, “Try and find at least one blast furnace that is not wallowing in rubbish!”

As touches the conditions of morale, they are no better than the physical conditions. “The management of the factory has cut itself away from the masses” (Pravda). Instead of a sensitive approach to the workers, there obtain “bare-faced commanding and domineering.” In every individual instance the matter touches isolated factories. Pravda cannot guess that the sum of the individual cases constitutes the Stalinist regime.

In the entire non-ferrous metal industry, “there is not a single factory committee that functions more or less satisfactorily” (For Industrialization, September 13). However, how and why is it that in a workers’ state the factory committees – of the entire industry and not only in the branch of non-ferrous metals – function unsatisfactorily? Is it not, perhaps, because they are strangled by the party bureaucracy?

At the Dzherjinsky locomotive plant, during a single session of the nucleus bureau of the blacksmiths, there were taken up simultaneously 18 cases of expulsions from the party; in the wheelwrights – 9 cases; in the boilermakers – 12 cases. The matter is not restricted to an isolated factory. Commandeering reigns everywhere. And the sole answer of the bureaucracy to the initiative and criticism from below are – repressions.

The draft of the Platform of the International Left Opposition proclaims, “The living standards of the workers and their role in the state are the highest criterions of socialist successes.” “If the Stalinist bureaucracy had approached the tasks of planning and of the living regulation of economy from this viewpoint”, we wrote more than a year ago, “it would not have missed fire frightfully each time, it would not have been compelled to put through the policies of wasteful zig-zags, and it would not have been placed face to face with political dangers.” (Bulletin 23, page 5).

Rural Economy

The rural economy of the Soviet Union”, wrote Pravda on September 28, “has become absolutely intrenched on the road to Socialism.” Such phrases, bolstered up as a rule by bare citations of the number of collectivized homesteads and hectares, represent in themselves a hollow mockery of the actual condition of the rural economy and of the interrelations between the city and the village.

The headlong chase after breaking records in collectivization, without taking any account of the economic and cultural potentialities of the rural economy, has led in actuality to ruinous consequences. It has destroyed the stimuli of the small commodity producer long before it was able to supplant them by other and much higher economic stimuli. The administrative pressure, which exhausts itself quickly in industry, turns out to be absolutely powerless in the sphere of rural economy.

“The village of Caucasus,” we are informed by this same Pravda, “was awarded the prize for its spring sowing campaign. Concurrently, the tillage turned out to be so poor that the fields were entirely overgrown by weeds” The village of Caucasus is a symbol of the administrative hue and cry after quantity in the domain of rural economy. 100 percent collectivization has resulted in 100 percent overgrowth of weeds on the fields.

The kolkhozes were allotted more than 100,000 tractors. A gigantic victory. But as the innumerable local newspaper reports show, the effectiveness of the tractors far from corresponds to their number. At the Poltava machine building station, one of the newest, “out of 27 tractors recently delivered, 19 are already seriously damaged”. These figures do not hold only for exceptional cases. The station on the Volga Ukraine has 52 tractors: of these, two have been out of operation since spring, 14 are being completely overhauled, and of the remaining 36, less than half are being utilized in sowing, “and even these remain alternately idle.” The coefficient of the useful functioning of the 100,000 tractors has not been determined as yet!

During the dizziest moment of 100 percent collectivization, Rakovsky made a stern diagnosis,

“In the sum total of the results which have been prepared for by the entire preceding policies and which have been aggravated by the period of the ultra-Left adventurism, the chief result will be the lowering of the productive forces of the rural economy, indubitably evident in the sphere of stock raising and in a part of the cultivation devoted to raising technical raw material, and becoming increasingly evident in the sphere of the cultivations of grains.”

Was Rakovsky mistaken? Unfortunately, no. Nothing can produce so shocking an impression as the small, quite imperceptible, decree issued by the C.E.C. on September 11, 1932, which met with no comments in the Soviet press. Under the signature of Kalinin and Molotov, the individual peasant proprietors are duty-bound to relinquish, for the needs of the kolkhozes and at their request, all horses for a stipulated price. The kolkhozes are in turn obliged to return the horses to their owners in “good condition”.

Such is the inter-relation between the Socialist and petty bourgeois sections of rural economy! The kolkhozes which Cultivate 80–80 percent of the arable lands and which should, in theory, attract the individualists by their achievements, are compelled in actuality to resort to the legal aid of the state in order to obtain through compulsion horses from individual proprietors for their own needs. Everything here is topsy-turvy. This single decree of September 11 represents a deadly sentence to the policies of Stalin-Molotov.

The Problem of Establishing the Link

Could the inter-relations between the city and the village become improved on the material productive basis?

Let us recall once again: The economic foundation of the dictatorship of the proletariat can be considered fully assured only from that moment when the State is not forced to resort to administrative measures of compulsion as touches the majority of the peasantry in order to obtain the products of rural economy; i.e., when in return for machines, tools and objects for personal use, the peasants voluntarily supply the state with the necessary quantity of food-stuffs and raw material. Only on this basis – along with other necessary conditions, internally as well as internationally – can collectivization obtain a true socialist character.

The correlation between the prices for the products of industry and the products of rural economy has changed indubitably in favor of the peasant. In truth, it is an unfeasible task, to perform an accounting in this sphere that corresponds in some manner to reality. For instance, Pravda writes that “the cost of a quintal of milk ranges in the kolkhozes from 43 to 206 roubles.” The variation is even greater between the State prices and the price on the legalized markets. No less hetergeneous are the prices for the industrial products, all depending upon the channel through which they reach; the peasant. But, without in any way pretending to be exact, it is possible to assert that the price-scissors, in the narrow meaning of the term, have been closed by the peasants. For its own products, the village has began to obtain such a quantity of monetary equivalents as would assure it industrial goods, at fixed state prices ... if such goods obtained.

(To be continued)

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Last updated on: 6 February 2015