Raya Dunayevskaya May 1954

Russia In Economic Crisis

Source: Correspondence, May 15, 1954. This piece appeared as Dunayevskaya’s column, “Two Worlds: Notes From a Diary.” It is included in “The Raya Dunayevskaya Collection,” microfilm numbers 9343 and 9344.
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

Russia is in the grip of an economic crisis. Agriculture is in complete chaos. Even compared to Czarist times, livestock production has shrunk three per cent while population has increased 40 per cent. Grain production is barely keeping up with the increase in population.

The Russian leaders themselves have had to admit that the state of collectivized agriculture is “alarming...wretched...negligent. A new decree was promulgated to send 100,000 youth to the far distances of Russia to plow up virgin soil. Just like the American labor bureaucracy, the Russian bureaucrats know only one way to meet the economic crisis, and that is to come up with yet another plan.

The American recession no sooner started than the American labor bureaucracy began a campaign to convince the Eisenhower Administration to go in for some New Deal planning. As if Roosevelt’s planning hadn’t led us directly from the 1929 depression into the havoc of a second world war! In Russia, where the planners have all the state power, they have, after a quarter of a century of planning, achieved the most lopsided economy in the world.

Planning – From Crisis To Crisis

It is true that it is a characteristic of all capitalist countries to produce more and more producers goods and less and less, relatively, of consumer goods. But nowhere except in Russia has there been an increase in producers goods for the period from the end of the Second Five Year Plan in 1937 to the year 1953, of 72 per cent, and a decline in consumer goods of 28 per cent.

In human terms, this means that only the bureaucrat sees good meat or fruit or butter or coffee or milk in his regular diet. The average Russian worker must be satisfied with a diet of cheap sausage, cured fish, cabbage, potatoes, bread and macaroni. For this he works 48 hours a week on a piecework incentive basis.

This is the end result of 25 years of planning under Communism. Yet so deluded are people by the myth of planning in countries of free enterprise, where conditions are just as wretched, that, to this day, no one uses the words, economic crisis, to describe the state of the planned Russian economy.

Yet there is nothing new about economic crises in Russia. The first came at the end of the First Five Year Plan in 1932. All the rest of the world was also in the depths of depression. There it took a different form. Instead of breadlines they were dying by the millions. What had happened was that forced collectivization had brought about such wholesale slaughter of cattle by the peasants that to this day Russia has never got back to its pre-World War I state in regard to livestock production.

Crises, Purges and Frame-Ups

There was another crisis in 1937. The Russian workers had saved the country from the complete agricultural chaos by building up its industry. But the harder they worked and the more heavy industry got built up, the less they got of the benefits. A whole new class of industrial managers was added to the government and military bureaucracy and the weight of these new rulers was too much burden on the workers’ backs.

This time too the economic crisis took a form different from that in ordinary capitalist countries. There, when there is centralization of industry, there is a firing of managers, bankruptcy of some capitalists and the monopoly and growth of others. In Russia it took the form of the gory frame-up trials which killed off not only those who had led the Revolution, but part of the new Stalinist bureaucracy. Thousands and thousands of workers who had resorted to slowdowns against the inhuman speed of the production line filled the forced labor camps. Then, like in the rest of the world, came the war. And now there is another economic crisis.

Nearly a year has passed since an alarming state, at least in agriculture, was admitted by the Russian totalitarian bureaucracy itself. The Russian people were promised more consumer goods and a reorganization of the agricultural front, which included prying the swivel chair agronomists out of their chairs and sending them into the fields. That was not so easy and the farmers did not wish these bureaucratic overlords. Then they decided to send youth, mostly city-bred, to plow up virgin territory in Siberia, the Urals, the Volga region. So far the result is next to zero.

Greater Speed-Up In Store

In his speech to the Moscow electorate on March 12, Premier Malenkov had this to say: “Soviet men and women, our whole people must become well aware of the fact that the principal decisive requisite for the further advance and all-round development of the national economy is the utmost rise in labor productivity in all fields, in industry, in transport, and in agriculture. All of us must know that without a considerable and uninterrupted rise in labor productivity it is impossible to achieve a substantial and rapid rise in the welfare of the Soviet people.”

In a word, all that is in store for the Russian workers is greater and greater speed-up.

Labor turns the wheels of industry and agriculture and neither the tractors nor the hydrogen bomb have changed that single source of all produced wealth. Just before the Nazi invasion of Russia, the head of the state Planning Commission gave it all mathematical precision. “The plan for 1941,” he said bluntly, “provides for a 12 per cent increase in the productivity of labor and a 6.5 per cent increase in average wage per worker.”

So long as the worker is paid the minimum necessary for this existence and the maximum is extracted from him to maintain a productive system ready for world conquest, that is how long we will have economic crises.

Crisis Rooted in Method Of Production

At this point the economic crisis is severest in Russia because the restlessness of the masses there and in its satellites upsets the best-laid plans of the biggest bureaucrats. But it isn’t the state plan that produced the crisis any more than it is the private plans of private capitalists that is producing the recession here. In both cases it stems from the method of production. So long as the workers themselves do not control and manage production, that is how long the method of production will produce the crises.

The answer of the American rulers is to explode another hydrogen bomb. The answer of the East German workers was the revolt of June 17th. In one case the very fate of civilization is in question. In the other case a new civilization free of all domination was opened up by the East German workers who revolted both against Russian domination and the speed-up of the production line.