How Planned was the Soviet Economy
As Marxists claim that capitalism is 'anarchic, planless, inefficient
and wastes human and natural resources', what with the modern advances
made by Russia in such a short space of time, one would assume that
the Soviet economy between 1924 and 1939 was meticulously planned and
controlled. However, many facts would beg to differ and instead
suggest the contrary.
It is true that institutes of planning existed in Russia in the period
concerned. As of July 1922, VSNKh operated its control over industry
by "methods of a production-planning character". The institution was
responsible for the drafting of production and disposal plans amongst
other things. Another institution in existence was Gosplan which was
known as the state general-planning commission. Set up in February
1921, Gosplan was to "work out a single general state economic plan
and means of implementing it." However, although such institutions
were in place, there was no evidence of a thoroughly worked out
production and allocation programme; there was no "command economy."
Gosplan did not produce plans in the sense of orders from which one
could act upon, but produced "control figures" which were in part a
prediction and in part a guide for strategic investment decisions. So,
according to Alec Nove, neither Gosplan nor VSNKh could provide, even
if they attempted to, output plans for all trusts and enterprises,
excluding a small number in key sectors, with most trusts making their
arrangements with minimal supervision from above.
Another point one must not forget is that the state's ability to plan
was inhibited by the fact that the people in the Left who had had a
strong belief in planning in the first place had been ousted out of
the government by the ruling forces. One must not overlook the timing
of the First Plan and brand it an accident. The Left Opposition had
originally proposed rapid industrialization to be the part's primary
priority. Now that they had been defeated the government was able to
adopt their industrialization policies without putting them in power.
Industrialization also came hand in hand with collectivisation as
machinery such as tractors had to be produced.
1921 to 1927 were the years of the NEP.VSNKh can be said to have just
regulated the economy during the NEP as opposed to doing anything
else. However in all fairness, it is difficult to even talk about a
planned economy between the years of 1924 and 1928, whatever the role
of the state planning institutions, as the state did not run the most
effective parts of the economy. The state's ability to plan was
greatly hindered by the fact that it ran heavy industry and not
agriculture. Between 1921 and 1927 the state industrial sector
stagnated while agriculture flourished in the private sector.