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John G. Wright

Falsified Statistics – The Death Chart of Stalinism

(September 1939)

From Fourth International, Vol. 1 No. 1, May 1940, pp. 21–24.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

INEXTRICABLY LINKED with and running parallel to Stalin’s perfidies and frame-ups in politics are his convulsions and falsifications in the sphere of economic life.

In politics and in economy, these falsifications have swelled to unprecedented proportions since 1935. A stage was finally reached, some 18 months ago [1], when even falsified figures became a source of danger to Stalin. So, with the termination of the Second Five Year Plan, publication of official data relating to progress in industry practically ceased.

This silence was finally broken with the long-belated announcement of the inception of the Third Five Year Plan. But only a trickle of figures seeped through. Five days after the signing of the Stalin-Hitler Pact, on August 28, 1939, Pravda suddenly took the plunge. It published the purported balance-sheet of the First and Second Five Year Plans in the light of the newly-resumed Third Five Year Plan. The material covers a full page and is entitled:

Material for Agitators and Propagandists

Falsified? The crudest job yet! But to falsify now is to embellish the most recent developments. Therefore they have to minimize the past achievements, and thus bring their statistics closer to reality. As a result, there is a glaring discrepancy between the past and most recent falsifications. In the light of this discrepancy the actual state of affairs becomes revealed. In fact Pravda’s blob of statistics serves to reveal Stalinism for what it is: A REGIME OF CRISIS, which is exhausting all its remaining possibilities at an ever increasing pace; sapping, first and foremost, its most substantial prop, that is, constantly and rapidly expanding production.

Below we print a table which was compiled solely on the basis of Pravda’s August 28 issue. Contained in this table are four related and vitally important items which cover the year 1913 – Czarist Russia on the eve of the first World War; the year 1929 – crucial year of the First Five Year Plan; the year 1933 – the “turn” in the Second Five Year Plan; and, lastly, 1938 – Stalin’s “threshold to Communism.” These are Pravda’s figures for the national income, the annual wage fund, the average annual wage, and, finally, the total labor force in those key years.

The symptomatic importance of these figures is self-evident. The size of the national income provides a well-nigh infallible index of the condition of the productive forces in a country. A rise in national income signifies the expansion of production. The rate of its annual increase or decrease is intimately related to the rate at which productive forces expand or contract. Similarly, the nation’s labor force contracts or expands, as a rule, with the fall or rise of national income. For precise analytical study, the basis on which national income is calculated must be known. That, however, remains Stalin’s private secret. Pravda assures us that the basis for all figures is the same. We can only pass on this assurance for what it is worth. Now let us turn to the table itself:







National Income (in billions of rubles)




   105.0% [2]


Annual Wage Fund (in billions of rubles)

not given





Average Annual Wage (in rubles)

not given





Number of Workers and Employees (in millions)






Percentage of Population Classified as Workers
and Employees

not given

  17.3% [3]

not given


The figures for national income show a swift rise in economy, from 28.9 billion in 1929 to 48.5 billion in 1933, and then a dizzy leap to the “estimated” sum of 105 billion for 1938. On the basis of these figures, we can now compute the average rate of expansion for each of the above periods. As compared with 1913, Soviet income (and economy) expanded at the rate of 1.37 times a year at the beginning of the First Five Year Plan; between 1929 and 1933 – the duration of the first plan – the rate of expansion rose to 1.67 times; that is, at the end of the first planned period it was almost double that of 1929; and in 1938, the claimed rate is 2.2 times, i.e., considerably more than double that of the previous period.

Now let us compare this set of figures with another set; the corresponding data for the expansion of the labor force. If in 1913 there were 11.4 million persons listed in this category, in 1929 we find 12.2 million. Therefore, the rate of increase was 1.07. In 1933 this rate rises to 1.9 (22.3 million as against 12.2 million), i.e., practically double. Finally, in 1938 Stalin’s figures report that the rate of increase had dropped to 1.3 as compared with the previous period (27.8 million as against 22.3 million), i.e., only one-third the previous growth. A corresponding table reads as follows:





Rate of Expansion of National Income




Rate of Expansion of Labor Force




These figures translated into the language of economic development show (1) a sharply rising curve of production which is, (2) accompanied by an almost identical rising curve in the growth of the labor force for the period of the First and Second Five Year Plans. With the rise in production there occurs an increase in the industrial army. But then we are suddenly confronted with a sharp break. The two processes fork in opposite directions. With the beginning of the Third Five Year Plan the production-curve soars upwards, while the labor-curve dips downward. We must pause.

Not that the phenomenon of expanding production in the face of a stationary or even declining labor force is an inexplicable phenomenon. Just the contrary. In advanced capitalist countries it has become a commonplace, acquiring a chronic character, and tending constantly to increase the army of unemployed. But then capitalism is decaying. Furthermore under capitalism, planned economy with a view to dynamic expansion is impossible; there is no prospect of opening up thousands of new factories, mills and mines, or developing new branches of industry that can be and are scheduled under a unified plan. With the Soviet Union the case is otherwise. Moreover, the Soviet Union has far from attained the mechanization of advanced capitalist countries, to say nothing of per capita production, or the degree of labor productivity, which, by admission of the regime itself, is far below that of corresponding industries in capitalist countries. Far from having reached a peak or saturation in her labor force, the Soviet Union suffers from an acute shortage of labor. In fact, this is cited repeatedly in the official press as one of the main reasons for failure to fulfill plan-quotas. Why then the retarded growth of labor forces? Is it perhaps because the peasants prefer to stay on the land? Or is it because any further increase (on paper) would cut down the “average annual wage,” and so had to be scaled down? Whatever the multiplicity of reasons may be, the fact is that we have a falsification here which admits this retardation and which tries to cover it up by puffing up the national income, and the annual wage fund.

From this admission we may justifiably conclude that the retarded growth of the labor army can only be a reflection of the retarded growth of national economy as a whole in the last few years. It is no longer expanding at the previous rate (1.67) but has instead declined. The actual rate of expansion of the national income is in all probability far closer to the reduced rate of the expansion of the labor force, i.e., 1.3 than it is to 2.2, the rate claimed by Stalin. This means that after years of rapid rise, economic development as a whole is slowing down. Production is beginning to stagnate around levels already achieved. Development in new fields does not compensate for the lag in the old. We refrain from adducing supplementary data that bear this contention out. We are willing to rest our case on Stalin’s own admission that the possibilities for further economic expansion under his regime are tending towards zero.

Let us scrutinize the Stalinist statistics more closely.

From 1929 to 1933 production almost doubles, and with it we have a doubling of the labor force. To be sure, the labor army expands at a swifter tempo than production (1.9 as against 1.67). But the discrepancy between these two rates – which, by the way, reflect much more truly the actual processes in Soviet economy – can readily be accounted for by the interplay of two factors: Low productivity of labor, on the one hand, and the swelling of the ranks of “employees,” i.e., the bureaucratic staff, on the other. Assuredly, not an ideal picture, but nevertheless one of remarkable progress. We shall presently return to the full implications of this historically unprecedented economic rise.

Meanwhile, let us compare the figures for 1929 with those chosen for the year 1913 by the bureaucracy itself. It is hard to believe one’s own eyes! These figures are nothing short of an official admission that in 1929 – the year of the “Entry Into Socialism”! – the levels attained barely surpassed those of Czarist Russia. The national income of 28.9 billion is matched against 21 Million under Czardom. The totals given for the respective labor forces approximate each other even more closely – 12.2 million as against 11.4 million. It is as if Stalin wished not only to confirm this fact known for a long time but to insist on it.

Now Russia under the Czars did not have 11.4 million industrial workers, not even half that number. Stalin’s statisticians must have therefore included also the Czarist “employees.” Did they compensate for this by adding Stalin’s chinovniks in the number of “workers and employees” for 1929 and thereafter? They undoubtedly did.

The average annual wage under Czardom is not given. Neither is the annual wage fund. These omissions are more eloquent even than the “falsifications by commission.” The reticences of the Kremlin do actually speak volumes. In this case, the explanation stares one in the face in the column for data on the “annual average wage,” where we find 800 rubles as the “average” wage for 1929.

This average, like all similar averages under this head, is arrived at very simply: Stalin divides the total wage fund (in this case 9.7 billion) by the total number of “workers and employees” (12.2 million) and puts down the quotient in round figures as 800. But as we already know, included in the total of “workers and employees” are an impressive number of bureaucrats from the party-union-administrative tops down to the skilled tiers of workers, who received far above the average wage. How many?

The precise number cannot be estimated. This, too, is Stalin’s secret. But if we assume that the productivity of a worker in 1929 approximated the levels of 1913, then we may draw the conclusion that Stalin’s hordes of bureaucrats must have at least approximated in number those of the Czar’s regime, of whom there were between 4-5 million in 1913, or about 40% of the total “workers and employees.” The figure must be fixed at even a larger proportion, if we take into account the progress in technology from 1913-1929, etc. But even if this estimate is cut by one-half it would still reduce the average wage of the mass of Soviet workers, especially the unskilled, not only below 70 rubles a month but actually below the living standards under Czarism. Thus, we have here an official acknowledgment by Stalin that in attaining and exceeding Czarist productive levels, his regime devoured and wasted a greater share of the national income than did the Czarist vampires. Thus social parasitism may attain proportions exceeding those of social exploitation – and this in the performance of a progressive task!

A profound lesson in the contradictory march of history, that is, in dialectics.

But the matter is far from exhausted. In point of fact, the year 1929 was one of the GOOD years under Stalinism for the workers, not to mention the peasants. The calculation in “rubles” for that particular year and period given in Pravda is in itself a flagrant fraud, intended primarily to cover up the terrible years, 1930–1931–1932. Those were the years of “socialist” inflation, when the currency was boosted from 2.0 billion in 1929 to 8.4 billion at the beginning of 1933 (when a reverse policy was adopted). Trotsky pointed out: “It is needless to say that inflation meant a dreadful tax upon the toiling masses ... In the sphere of agriculture inflation brought no less heavy consequences.” In terms of human suffering and sacrifice, in terms of havoc in agriculture, the decimation of livestock, the regime of famine, the millions of lives lost (the peasantry), the debit side of the bureaucratic ledger is matched only by the depredations of Asiatic conquerors. How then was the bureaucracy able to maintain itself?

Here we return to the rise in economy recorded during this period. Throughout these years production continued to expand.

To dilettantes and superficial observers of history, on the one hand, and to Stalin and all his flunkies, on the other, it appears as if the regime was able to preserve itself solely through the application of cunning maneuvers, terror, etc., etc. Violence alone did not, will not, and cannot save Stalin.

If the bureaucracy was able to maintain itself, it was because the October revolution had lodged at the foundation of the Soviet Union such colossal and progressive dynamic forces, and had extended such huge historical credits that not even Stalin and his regime were able to exhaust them in the span of more than 15 years.

From the end of 1932, on the basis of rapidly expanding production – unprecedented in history – came a gradual but unmistakable improvement in the living conditions of the masses. Just as in 1923, so also in this period and thereafter, the bureaucracy was able to stabilize itself on the basis of this rapid economic upswing. It was this factor that enabled the Bonapartist regime to intrench itself and to survive in the period of the first two plans. This and this alone saved Stalin in the terrible years from 1930–1932 when the masses sank to the lowest levels after the Civil War. This and this alone has enabled him to survive to the present time.

The purges, the application of terror in ever increasing doses served only as preventive, that is, supplementary measures.

The economic rise took place – despite the bureaucracy – on the basis of nationalized economy and the introduction (belated) of planning. Despite its monstrous waste and misdirection, despite its parasitic social nature, the Stalin regime was able to play a progressive role in the past because its rule straddled this foundation. Stalinism wrote those pages in blood and infamy. However, the successes achieved by planned economy were little short of staggering.

These successes appeared on the surface to stabilize the regime and render it impregnable. In reality, they were undermining it. The maintenance and extension of Bonapartist rule and privileges came into an irreconcilable conflict, which grew in intensity with the further development of the country’s productive forces.

The dynamic development of productive forces could be laced into the straitjacket of Stalinist Bonapartism only temporarily, and only after wild convulsions, each more violent than the preceding. These disturbances in the foundation, which are harbingers of a catastrophic eruption, found their reflection in convulsions in the political superstructure, each more bestial and unrestrained than the one before.

If Stalin falsifies statistics of Soviet economy, it is to hide this irreconcilable conflict between advancing economy and the fetters of his regime. If Stalin staged frame-ups and unleashed his terror in the period from 1935–1938, it was primarily to compensate for the declining rate of economic expansion, which spells his doom. The rising intensity of oppression in the political superstructure is a refracted and an inverse index of the economic downswing in the foundation.

The primary cause of this decline is the bureaucracy itself. Once again, the falsified statistics bear this out to the hilt.

Pravda boastfully cites the increases in the average annual wage to show that the living conditions of the masses have steadily improved since 1929. True enough, there has been an improvement, not since 1929, but since 1933. The peasantry gained much more from it than have the workers. The war has now introduced its own unknown quantities into that equation also. While we cannot specify any of them in advance, the general direction in which they will act can nevertheless be posited. War will worsen the economic position of the masses in the Soviet Union as elsewhere in the world. With this difference, however, that the Stalin regime will not dare in the interests of its own self-preservation to surrender even under duress of war an iota of its privileges. The slightest breach in the Bonapartist dam carries with it the threat of a deluge. Meanwhile, the encroachments of Stalinism have already become incompatible with a further strain on economy. Precisely in this sphere of encroachments, Stalin’s latest statistics provide the clearest indication to date, not of an improvement in the living standards of the masses, but rather of his regime’s “share” in the national income.

Given the annual national income, and the annual national wage, it is a simple matter to compute the percentage accruing to “workers and employes.” From this, it is possible to deduce indirectly and approximately the portion devoured annually by the Bonapartist camp-followers.

Taking the Pravda’s figures, we obtain the following results:

The first and obvious correction that must be introduced in the foregoing figures is a change in the percentage of the population. 27.8 million “workers and employees” do not constitute 34.7% of Russia’s population, estimated at 160–170 million. The Stalinists have merely doubled the actual percentage in each instance. Apparently, with the irrevocable triumph of socialism, it is impermissible for workers to number less than 30% of the population.

Moreover, the figures presented for the wage fund for 1938 are highly exaggerated. Merely juxtaposing the sum given for the annual wage for 1938 – 96.4 billion – with the claimed national income of 105 billion suffices to expose the fraud. This leaves a spread of less than 9 billion rubles between the amount paid out in wages and salaries and the total national income. As we have already stated, the Stalinist falsification serves only all the more glaringly to reveal the truth. Let us take these figures as Stalin manufactures them, and introduce only the obvious elementary correction in division. Our corrected table now reads:

The above figures contain an admission that a small minority of the country (1/6th and even less) absorbs one-third, two-thirds, and even more than nine-tenths (!) of the national income.

Thus, the figures for the annual wage fund in reality provide a gauge for measuring the rapacious “legal” encroachments of the bureaucracy. The total amount they actually devour is immaterial. For here we have a relative gauge. If for example we assume that they appropriate one-half of the wage fund, then they devoured one-sixth of the national income in 1929, one-third in 1933, and almost one-half in 1938. They may have grabbed more, or maybe less, but whatever the actual total is, the ratio between the different sums remains the same. That is to say, on the basis of the above estimate the bureaucracy devoured at least twice as much during the Second Five Year Plan as they did during the first. And their “plan” for the Third Five Year tenure is still more ambitious.

National economy cannot withstand this drain, especially under war-time conditions.

To recapitulate: the statistics are false, but the falsifications have a basis in fact, and so the truth is refracted through them, warped but unmistakable. Even prior to the outbreak of war, Stalinism was nearing the end of its historical tether. It is rapidly exhausting all its “credits.” Further expansion of the productive forces is becoming more and more incompatible with the further existence of the regime. Stalinism will be sent to its grave by the greatest productive force of the Soviet Union – her working class. Stalin’s statistics chart his own death agony.



1. This article was written Sept. 10, 1939, for The New International. It is published here for the first time. – Ed.

2. Official Stalinist estimate.

3. 1928 figure given.

Last updated: 6 March 2016