Soviet and US Economy

John Woodford johnwood at
Mon Jul 20 07:19:16 PDT 1998

The formation and behavior of the so-called nomenklatura needs looking into on the downfall of USSR. Anecdotally, I noticed in my few trips there between 1971 and 1987, that the young party types who were moving into various easy-job slots, and who were either born after WWII or been toddlers during it, were increasingly and obviously "faking it" when it came to duties like the friendship and solidarity committees who were delegated to host visiting friendlies of one strip or another.

By 1985, lots of the functionaries who got the right to travel to the capitalist countries were extremely interested in buying and dealing in VCRs and such to make huge mark-ups when they went home. This had to embitter and demoralize lots of working people, and perhaps was representative of similar processes going on throughout the union.

And as someone pointed out here, what it boils down to is a failure to advance the variety and quality of consumer goods for the grassroots, while those in position to obtain them abroad did so and flaunted it. When things got worse economically, the brutality, arrogance, callousness and opportunism in and outside the CP spread like a plague. It was devil take the hindmost, and that's the climate today. The workers in the Russia and the CIS will have to rebuild their political organizations, or perhaps someone somewhere else will have bring off the modern "Paris Commune" for them and others to emulate, as a cogent correspondent noted her few messages back. At least over there, there are some who still can feel the limb they are missing. An appendage that hasn't yet evolved in our own body politic. ------------- Original Text
>From michael perelman <michael at>, on 7/18/98 8:55 AM:
I am going to make a few comments on jame heartfield's response to me note:

> In arguing that the Soviet Economy was less efficient than the American
> I am not arguing that the American was efficient, only that the Soviet
> was grotesquely inefficient.

Both are/were grotesquely inefficient in their own way.

> Was the Soviet economy weighed down by its generous welfare provisions?
> It seems unlikely. After all the US economy dedicates more of its GNP to
> health care than any other developed economy.

Our health care represents a high share in part because of the huge profit margins and the concentration of health resources in the last weeks of a person's life and on the needs of the well to do.

> In truth the final denouement of the USSR
> was precisely in the failure to develop a consumer goods sector.

There was dissatisfaction with the consumer goods relative to those of the U.S. on the part of elites. A professor or a bureaucrat made much less than a comparable person in the U.S. A farm worker much more.

> The tragedy is
> that it was not just propaganda: the Soviet economy really did fail to
> meet the most basic needs of its people.

I don't believe this for a minute, but perhaps James has a better understanding of the inner workings of the minds of the people of that part of the world.

It is easy to trash the excesses of Stalinism. That approach minimizes the comparable crimes of the capitalist nations. I see no good in following that line of thought. -- Michael Perelman Economics Department California State University Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321 E-Mail michael at

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