RES: Why did the USSR fall?

Alexandre Fenelon afenelon at
Tue Apr 25 19:05:46 PDT 2000

-----Mensagem original----- De: owner-lbo-talk at [mailto:owner-lbo-talk at]Em nome de JKSCHW at Enviada em: terça-feira, 25 de abril de 2000 06:48 Para: lbo-talk at Assunto: Re: Why did the USSR fall?

As everyone here know, I am no defender of planning or authoritarian socialism, but Jim's comment here is only one theory, and not necessarily the most plausible one. First, high growrth rates for developing societies are not unusual, and the USSR did in fact develop from an agricultural to an industrial society. Second, estimates of these growth rates do not depend on taking Soviet statistics as gospel; there was a lot of good independent work to the same point. Third, and on the other side, an average from 1928-41, 45-75 is not very revealing, since it misses the big fall off from 1960-75, when growth rates fell a lot. The highest growth rates are 1922-41 and 1945-60, reconstruction after war and industrialization, what you'd expect. Fourth, many Soviet factories produced much waste, but not all, or the USSR would not have attained the very real industrialization and increase in living standards it did.

Finally there is the question about why the system came apart. Michael Ellman, a very distinguished exoert on planning and no particular fan of the USSR argues (in his anthology, The Dinintegration of the Societ Economy), that the system was deliberatelt dismantled by the perestroichiki rather than merely collapsing. Had not Gorbachev, et al, taken apart the central planning apparatus and put nothing in its place, it is at least possible and perhaps likely that we would still have the USSR to kick around into the indefinite future. In consumerist terms, that does not mean that it woukd have been a success.


All of which begs the question why did the superior economic entity

collapse in the face of the inferior? No. The answer is that soviet

industry proved to be a paper tiger. >>

I think there is another decisive factor associated with USSR collapse. Military expending was very high. In the range of 15-2% GNP. This is a very good way to bankrupcy. Even the USA, with a much stronger economy, sufered a lot with military spending from 5-7% of the GNP. I think USSR couls have gained some time by decreasing defense spending. We must also consider that those 1-2% GNP growth from 1975-89 probably reflected a growth in military expenses while the "civil economy" could be in fact dwindling during those last 15 years. Any information on this?

Alexandre Fenelon

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