U.S.S.R. IN CRISIS: The Failure of an Economic System by Marshall I. Goldman

U.S.S.R. IN CRISIS: The Failure of an Economic System

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The subtitle sums up Wellesley Sovietologlst Goldman's me-too assessment of Soviet economic planning--but it took a trip to China to tip him off: if the Chinese were fed up with the Soviet model and having so much trouble shedding it, he reasoned, how much tougher it must be for the Soviets! ""When Stalin took over from Lenin,"" Goldman then relates (obliterating years of intense economic debate), he embarked on a program of rapid and ruthless industrialization of an essentially agricultural economy. The development of a heavy-industry sector succeeded, but at the expense of both agriculture--decimated by forced collectivization--and of consumer-goods production. The basic priorities of Soviet economic planning have not changed; if anything, the flexibility of the economy has diminished with the increase in military production. In today's world, moreover, the Soviets have no market for their heavy industrial goods--unlike the Japanese, they were not successful in borrowing technological advances from others--and have had to fall back on raw materials exports, in the classic pattern of an underdeveloped economy. The lack of consumer goods is exacerbated by an inefficient and largely disregarded delivery system: witness the surliness of Soviet salespeople and consumers alike. (Also, the long lines, the black market, the special stores for the elite.) So despite legendary Russian patience, the outlook is bad: the food situation, among others, is actually worse than it was in the 1950s. But decontrolling the economy would unleash pandemonium, and anyway ""historically Russian leaders have found it very difficult to implement change""--this despite Peter the Great, Lenin, and Stalin's collectivization itself. Goldman, consequently, sees no way out. No new information or insights, and no prognosticative value.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1982
Publisher: Norton