Soviet and US Economy

Jim heartfield Jim at
Wed Jul 22 08:00:41 PDT 1998

In message < at>, Wojtek Sokolowski <sokol at> writes
>At 09:52 AM 7/18/98 +0100, Jim heartfield wrote:
>>'the USSR now produces 161 million tons of steel and 617 million tons of
>>oil, not to speak of 744 million tons of coal and 712 thousand cubic
>>meters of gas. These are enormous figures, outdistancing the United
>>States. They are indeed curious in that the United States produces more
>>consumer goods that the USSR. For instance the USSR produces only 1.3
>>million cars as opposed to the ten million or so made in the United
>>States, even though the latter now produces only half as much steel as
>>the USSR. Again, US oil consumption is not very different from that of
>>the USSR, even though the USSR does not need gasoline on the same vast
>If memory serves, the main users of steel and gas was the construction
>projects, including housing of which there was a tremendous shortage, and
>rail transport. I would not call these waste, especially vis a vis
>cardboard suburban homes and individual automobiles.

Insofar as resources were directed towards these goals but still failed to produce houses, then waste is exactly what these unfinished projects were.

>Jeans, automobiles, suburban homes -- these are fetishes of conusmerism
>which the Soviet economy indeed failed to supply. But the demand for these
>fetishes is hardly a proof of economi inefficiency.

If you call a home 'suburban' does that make it a luxury intead of a necessity. Soviet people lacked homes, suburban or otherwise. Wanting a home, clothes, or even a car is not 'commodity fetishism' , and the failure to provide them is indeed economic inefficiency, and worse.

In another mail (which I accidentally deleted so sorry if I put words in your mouth) you said that your assessment of the East European economies depended on what criteria you use, I agree. But I don't agree that you can treat the economic condition of those states as a given. After all the claim of socialism was that it would reverse the economic state of those states, not entrench it.

As I read it there was a spurt of growth in East Europe in the early century, largely due to capital inflows, either as loans or investment. The political reorganisation post WWI also encouraged growth. But once the crash and following slump came, capital moved out of EE, and then German Tanks moved in, attempting to reorganise those economies on dicatorial lines. It was the defeat and collapse of the German military rule that created the vacuum into which the Soviets injected some pretty shaky regimes. Once capital exports - principally from a re-galvanised Germany - began to have an impact upon East European economies in the seventies, those regimes installed by the USSR crumbled.

Today it is the East European states that are clamouring for Western involvement, and seeking membership of the EC and of Nato. That is not a sign that those regimes enjoyed much popular support. If some ex- communists have won power back in elections, it is principally on the programme that they not return to the past.

The claim that these states constituted a new socialist order seems more dificult to justify. Rather, they would appear to have been little more than holding operations, between two periods of capitalist expansion into the East. And for holding down working class living standards to a minimum, those European capitalists who are now taking advantage, have much to be grateful to their Stalinist warehousekeepers. -- Jim heartfield

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