A historical analysis of Soviet agriculture by the noted biochemist, author of the recent Gorbachev (1986). The conventional view ascribes the problems of Soviet agriculture to Stalin's excesses, particularly the Lysenko era of pseudo-scientific biology. Medvedev contends that, with or without Lysenko, Soviet agricultural science and economy has had little to do with real life from 1920 right up to the present. In a country that grew scientifically by leaps and bounds, agricultural productivity was unable to benefit from technological growth. ""It was obvious that poor agricultural performance was linked to bad management and the bureaucratization of the whole government apparatus."" Nothing seemed to work. The US grain embargo of 1980 should have stimulated Russian leadership to reform, Medvedev believes, but from that year to the present harvests have been increasingly disastrous. To gain perspective on the problem, the author presents a straight historical narrative, moving from the failure of one economic policy to another--whether it be the too-hasty collectivization of the Stalin years, the shortage of able-bodied men on the farms after the brutalization of WW II, or the too-tentative reforms of Khrushchev and the trio of bureaucrats that succeeded him prior to Gorbachev. Medvedev is not optimistic about the future, although he sees some hope in a new leaning toward the contracting of family farms--in some respects, a retreat from the traditional Soviet collective stance. But problems remain, including the illogicality of a system that requires large harvests that are bad for both producers and the state. The author offers only two ways of solving the Soviet dilemma--either to reduce food imports and introduce rationing, or to bring about a political and economic liberalization; and he finds grounds for hope in neither. Authoritative and insightful, this is one of the best books to date On a complicated subject.