Michel Pablo

The 19th Congress of the Russian CP

(December 1952)


From Fourth International, Vol.13 No.6, November-December 1952, pp.169-173.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


The main interest of the 19th Congress of the Russian Communist Party unquestionably lies in the facts it has provided about the situation in the USSR.

These facts emerge directly or indirectly from the various reports presented to the Congress, as well as from some of the speeches of the delegates. Naturally, the statistics provided by the Soviet leaders as well as the facts relating to them should be judged and interpreted critically.

It can be said of statistics in general that “anything can be done with them,” and the leaderships in bureaucratic regimes are past masters at this art. On the other hand it should not be forgotten that the facts in the reports relating to bureaucratic management of the economy, to the party regime, to the State and Soviet life in general are presented by the topmost representatives of the Soviet bureaucracy who play a Bonapartist role within this bureaucracy.

The image of Soviet society, of its problems and its reactions is inevitably incomplete, deformed, embellished in the form it is depicted by its representatives. But despite all their art of dissimulation and their deformation of the true state of Soviet society, their documents, reports and speeches to the 19th Congress provide first-rate material for a critical discernment of several important aspects of the present, real situation in the USSR.

It has been a long time since such material on this question has appeared. We shall see that the essential estimations which our movement makes on the USSR have once again been confirmed.

Despite the obstacle of bureaucratic management, the relations of production which only the October Revolution made possible (the statification of all the means of production and planned economy) still cause an impressive rise of the productive forces in the USSR. This contrasts ever more with the stagnation and decline of the productive forces in the capitalist world taken as a whole. Thus the facts once again confirm the overwhelming superiority of these new forms of production over capitalism.

On the other hand, the noxious presence of bureaucratic management of the economic and administrative apparatus of the USSR penetrates into all the pores of its organism. In the economic sphere, the bureaucratic plague takes the form of theft and squandering of state property, the black market, sterilization of the productive spirit and of the productive capacities of the masses.

On the political, social and cultural planes, the bureaucratic plague takes the form of the police regime, bourgeois tendencies in customs and thinking, formalism, academism and conformism in the arts.

But in return, new generations are growing up in the USSR, on the soil of unquestionable economic and cultural progress, generations who did not experience the defeats of the October generation who are thinking, criticising and fighting in face of the principal obstacle to the free development of the country: the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is conscious of the danger. They are trying to eliminate it both by concessions and by a tightening of their control over the masses.

But the entire world is now the active arena of the historic revolutionary process. The new revolutionary forces forming and awakening in the USSR itself will not be alone for long. They are moving toward a junction with the forces of the advancing international revolution, and they will inevitably flatten the bureaucracy. Let us see how a critical study of the facts provided by the 19th Congress of the Russian CP illuminates all these points.
 

Achievements and Dynamism of Soviet Economy

a. Industry

“The war delayed “the development of our industry,” Malenkov declared in his report, “from eight or nine years, that is, roughly for two five-year plan periods ... Post-war reorganization of industrial production was completed in its broad lines in the course of the year 1946.”

After that, industrial production increased rapidly at an annual average rate of about 20% to reach twice the 1940 level (the last peace-time year) and around three times that of 1946. (What should be emphasized besides is the regularity of growth of production in the USSR as contrasted with the spasmodic character of the development of production in the capitalist countries.)

During this same period, the most dynamic capitalist production – that of the United States – developed only 30% in relation to 1946 to reach twice that of 1939 (the last peace-time year) in 1951. (The rate was only around 2% in France.)

Naturally one can question the strict accuracy of the scope of this annual rate of increase of industrial production in the USSR.

Last May a convention on Soviet economic growth was organized by the Social Science Research Council. According to the specialists assembled the rate is not so high, but 5-7% according to some and 12% according to others. But even if the latter figure is accepted as the average, the dynamism of Soviet economy is not thereby less impressive and contrasts with the gasping of capitalist economy in general. (This dynamism is now characteristic of all the ‘‘people’s democracies” and of China. The annual rate of growth of production in these countries is far higher than that of the most dynamic capitalist countries.)

The new five-year plan of 1951-1955 provides for an average annual rate of around 12% for the production of all industry. “Such a rate of growth means that in 1955 the volume of industrial production will triple in relation to 1940.” (Malenkov.)

In concrete figures the USSR now produces in the means of production 25 million tons of pig iron, 27 million tons of rolled metal, 300 million tons of coal, 47 million tons of oil, 117 thousand million kilowatt hours of electric power. The overall volume of the production of the means of production has been doubled and in some branches surpasses that of 1940.

“The 1952 output is to be as follows: over 5 thousand million meters of cotton textiles, or roughly 30% more than in 1940; nearly 190 million meters of woolen fabrics, or roughly 60% more than in 1940; 218 million meters of silk fabrics, or 2.8 times the 1940 output; 250 million pairs of leather footwear, or roughly 20% more than in 1940; 125 million pairs of rubber footwear, or 80% more than was turned out in 1940; over 3,300,000 tons of sugar, or over 50% more than in 1940; over 380,000 tons of dairy-produced butter (leaving out of account the considerable amount of home-made butter), which will be over 70% more than, the pre-war figure of dairy-produced butter.” (Malenkov).

These figures permit instructive comparisons and conclusions. First, concerning the production of the means of production. For 210 million inhabitants of the USSR they represent roughly 40% of the corresponding production of the United States in 1951 with a population of 155 million. [1] The gulf, and especially the gulf per capita, between the two countries still remains very great.

The figures on production of articles of consumption are even more eloquent. In relation to the material and cultural level attained by the Soviet masses in 1940, progress in this sphere has been important.

Production of cotton textiles per capita has increased 20% in relation to 1940; woolen fabrics more than 60%; paper more than 70%; electric power has more than doubled – also cement. The gulf however, including in the field of articles of consumption, remained very large in relation to the level of the advanced capitalist countries.

For example, in 1952 there were still roughly 24 meters of cotton textile per capita in the USSR as against roughly 60 meters in the United States and 38.4 in England in 1950; 1.2 pairs of leather shoes annually against 3.3 pairs in the United States, 3 pairs in Great Britain and 2.5 pairs in France.

The progress of Soviet industry is not confined to the constant growth of volume. It extends to the technical sphere of the perfecting of machines, their increase in quantity and models, particularly of machine tools.

This results in increased production which contributes to the high rate of constant growth of production. (According to Malenkov, “From 1940 to 1951 productivity of labor in industry increased by 50%. During this period, 70% of the increase of industrial production was due to the raising of the productivity of labor.”)

“The machine tool aggregate,” Malenkov declared, “was increased 2.2 times (in relation to 1940) during this period by the addition of new, more productive machines. In the past three years alone the Soviet engineering industry has produced about 1,600 new types of machines and mechanisms.”

If we take the aggregate figure of roughly 700,000 machine tools which the USSR had in 1940, we arrive at the figure of 1,540,000 in 1952 as against 1,772.000 in 1950 in the United States, and only 800,000 in Great Britain, the second industrial power in the capitalist world! (Reservations are however necessary on the way that the statistic “machines, machine tools,, and mechanisms” is established in the USSR.)
 

b. Agriculture and Livestock

In the post-war period, Malenkov declared, “a particular concern of the party was to strengthen the collective farms organizationally and economically, to assist them in restoring and further developing their.commonly-owned economy and, on this basis, to improve the material well-being of the collective farm peasantry.” (Malenkov’s concern for the well-being of the peasantry does not prevent him from vehemently attacking the supporters of the “agro-cities” who “have forgotten the principal production tasks facing the collective farms and have put in the forefront subsidiary, narrow utilitarian tasks, problems of amenities in the collective farms.”)

At the present time “there are 97,000 amalgamated collective farms instead of 254,000 small collective farms as of January 1, 1950.”

The pre-war level of agricultural production has been attained and surpassed. The cultivated area for all agricultural crop in 1952 surpasses by 5,300,000 hectares the prewar level. “In the current year, 1952, the total grain harvest amounted to 8,000 million poods (one pood equals around 36 thousand lbs.) with the total harvest of the most important food crop, wheat, 48% bigger than in 1940,” according to Malenkov. The grain problem has been “solved successfully, solved once and for all.”

On the other hand Soviet agriculture has become qualitatively different, differing profoundly from the old, less productive, extensive agriculture.

“Whereas the area under all agricultural crops in the USSR in 1952 is 1.4 times more than in 1913, the area under grain crops having increased 5%, the area under industrial, vegetable and melon crops has increased more than 2.4 times and the area under fodder crops has increased more than 11 times.”

The mechanization of agriculture has increased considerably. “The aggregate horse power of the tractors belonging to machine and tractor stations and state farms has risen 59% above the pre-war level, that of harvester combines has risen 51%.”

So far as livestock is concerned, long-horned cattle have surpassed (in 1948) the 1940 level, as well as sheep (1950) and pigs (1952).

Total production and production for sale of meat, milk, butter, eggs, wool and leather has also surpassed the pre-war level in the USSR as a whole.
 

c. Commerce, Transportation, Communications

During the post-war years the business figures for state and cooperative commerce have been multiplied by 2.9, appreciably surpassing the pre-war level. This is the result of increased industrial and agricultural production.

So far as transportation is concerned, the weak point of Soviet economy, no indices are given on the development of the railroad system. We learn however, that in 1951 there were 23,000 kilometers of navigable inland waterways in use more than in 1940. The only index on automobile transport is one stating that “the network of motor roads with improved surface has expanded by 3.1 times compared with 1940.”

The indices are just as vague concerning the telephone and telegraph system. “The radio-receiving network is at present nearly twice as large as in 1940.”
 

Five-Year Plan Goals 1951-1955

What are the goals aimed at by the fifth five-year plan in the various spheres of economy on the basis of this achievement of Soviet economy in 1952?

Industry: The production of the means of production is to increase around 80% and the production of articles of consumption roughly 65%. The total of industrial production to increase roughly 70% as against 1950. To approximately double state investments in industry as against 1946-50. In the production of the means of production, special emphasis is placed on the production of hydraulic turbines (780%) and steam turbines (230%), on big machine tools for metal cutting (260%)and equipment for the oil industry (350%), finally steam boilers (270%). The emphasis in the production of articles of consumption is placed on cement (220%), meat (92%) and preserves (210%).

Agriculture, livestock: Increase in total crop – from 40 to 50% for grain, from 55 to 65% for raw cotton, from 40 to 50% for linen fibers, from 65 to 70% for sugar beets, from 40 to 45% for potatoes.

Increase in the production of fodder: From 80 to 90% for hay, triple or quadruple tubers, root stalks, and double silage.

Increase from 18 to 20% long-horned cattle, sheep from 60 to 62%, pigs from 45 to 50%, horses from 10 to 12%. Multiply the number of poultry by 3 or 3.5%, the production of wool by 2 or 2.5%, the production of eggs by 6 to 7%.

Commerce, transportation, communications: Increase in retail state and cooperative trade of roughly 70%. Build new railroad lines at a ratio two and a half times greater than in 1946-1950. Build and rebuild around 50% more paved roads than in 1946-1950. Double the length of inter-urban telephone and telegraph cable.
 

Some General Remarks

The geographic distribution of industry has changed since 1940 with the increasing industrialization of the Volga Basin and of the Ural, Siberian, Far Eastern and Kazakhistan areas and of the Central Asian Republics. (In his speech Beria tried to point up the development of these areas in comparison with those of the most developed capitalist countries – France, Italy, Belgium, Holland – and of countries like India, Pakistan, Iran, etc. He demonstrated that the rate of industrial and agricultural development in several branches of these areas very considerably surpasses that of the corresponding rate in capitalist countries and their dependents.

The total volume of industrial production in these areas has tripled in relation to 1940. The new five-year plan maintains and accentuates this tendency which is extended to Transcaucasia and to the Baltic countries. The weak points of Soviet economy taken as a whole remain transportation and construction in which there is still a serious housing crisis. On the other hand the pre-war crisis in the sphere of foodstuffs and clothing is in the process of disappearing through the progress made in the production of grain, meat, fats, cotton, wood, leather. (Malenkov recognized “that there is still a generally acute housing shortage.” The number of buildings and houses constructed remains small especially if the extensive destruction caused by the war along with productivity in building – which has increased only 36% as against 1940 – is taken into consideration.)

However, even discounting complete fulfillment in 1955 of the aims set by the fifth five-year plan, total industrial production in the USSR will only be around 70% of present production in the United States. The gulf is even greater per capita in the sphere of means of production as well as in articles of consumption.

It can be seen that we are still far from not only “material abundance” but merely a level comparable to that of the more developed capitalist countries. That, consequently, not only will the USSR in 1955 not be on the threshold of “going over from socialism to communism” but even far from having attained a truly socialist economy, which presupposes a considerably higher level than that of the most advanced capitalist countries.
 

Defects of Bureaucratic Management Of Soviet Economy

The bureaucracy tries to project its own image on the canvas it periodically paints of the economy and of Soviet life in general. First, its statistical technique is such that it never permits a breakdown of the real distribution of national revenue among the different social categories of Soviet society and the real share of well-being among the workers, the peasants and the bureaucracy itself.

During the period from 1940 to 1951 the national revenue of the USSR increased by 83%. “Three-fourths were placed at the disposal of the toilers – the remainder to enlarged production and to satisfy other needs of the state and of society.” But in Malenkov’s vocabulary the term toiler embraces bureaucrats, workers and peasants. No indication is given of the relative share of each of these categories.

Thus the exact social equivalent was and remains the most difficult element to determine. But the bureaucracy, however, is not successful in completely effacing from its reports the misdeeds of its management of the economy and the state. Defects on such a scale would be unthinkable if there were a genuine democratic control of the economy by the masses, the workers and technicians of the factories, the peasants and technicians of the collective farms.
 

Squandering, Theft, and Damage Of Collective Property

In 1951, Malenkov declared, “Losses and unproductive expenditures in establishments of national significance totalled 4000 million rubles, including 3,000 million due to spoilage.”

Also in 1951, “the overhead expenses in building in excess of estimates amounted to more than 1.000 million rubles and instead of a planned profit of 2900 million rubles, the construction organizations incurred in that year a loss of 2500 million rubles.”

In agriculture, “agricultural machinery is prematurely worn out and considerable excess expenditure on the repair of machines is incurred.” “Mismanagement has not yet been done away with in many machine and tractor stations of collective farms and state farms.” Harvesting is often “below plan” which “results in big losses.” The preservation of collective farm property is organized in a “defective” manner, the care of livestock is “bad.”

Losses and unproductive expenditures are “equally great” in transportation, the overhead expense of storing, preserving and transporting agricultural products “are too high as are the general costs of the commercial organisms.”

Finally “administrative expenses are still too high.” The “excessive expenditure of materials, money and labor resources observed in all branches of the national economy, indicates that many executives have forgotten the need for exercising the economy that they do not concern themselves with the rational and economical expenditure of state funds ... and that the party organizations do not notice these shortcomings and do not correct these executives.”

In conclusion, there are many wasteful bureaucrats and there is no control from below, the only control being that of “the ministries,” that is, the bureaucracy itself. Malenkov also points out that the execution of the plan in industry is often hindered and falsified by a volume of total production which does not correspond to the articles demanded by the state nor to the quality demanded for these articles.

To fill their quotas, many enterprises replace the production of certain articles by others or turn out “large quantities of inferior goods.” “Dissimulation” and the “falsifying of results of work” characterize “certain leaders.” Others make “exaggerated (demands) for investments and raw materials” which do not correspond to the real production of their enterprises within the plan. These “exaggerated demands” obviously feed “the black market.”

Malenkov recognizes that in agriculture “there are still instances of collective farm property being squandered, and of other violations of the Rules of the Agricultural Artel. Some workers in Party, Soviet and agricultural bodies instead of guarding the interests of the collective farm common enterprise themselves engage in pilfering collective farm property, flagrantly violate Soviet laws, engage in arbitrary practices and commit lawless acts in relation to collective farms.”

“Many leaders,” forget in general, “that the enterprises confided to their charge and management belong to the state and trv to transform them into their property.” Many leaders lack “honesty and sincerity toward the state and the party” have their own discipline distinct from that of the “rank and file,” and in general show a series of characteristics far removed from “the new Soviet man,” the “socialist man.”

We have little difficulty in recognizing throughout these “criticisms” the portrait of the bureaucrat, arrogant toward his subordinates, deceiving to his superiors, wasting, thieving, brazenly squandering public property. (We can only mention some of these “criticisms” in this article. The misdeeds of disorganization and confusion caused by the bureaucratic administration of the economy are abundantly illustrated in Malenkov’s report as well as in speeches by the delegates. Bureaucratic pressure for production on the other hand leads both to strengthening the resistance of the workers and to the “dishonesty” of the leaders toward the state and the party by the tactic of false accounts they are obliged to present to avoid penalties.)
 

State, Party, Culture

“The enemies and vulgarizers of Marxism,” Malenkov forcefully stated, “advocated the theory, most harmful to our cause, of the weakening and withering away of the Soviet state in conditions of capitalist encirclement.” The party “smashed and rejected this rotten theory” and has arrived at the opposite conclusion, that “in conditions when the socialist revolution has been victorious in one country while capitalism dominates in a majority of others, the country where the revolution has triumphed must not weaken, but strengthen its state to the utmost.”

Marx and Lenin are among the “enemies and vulgarizers of Marxism.” Malenkov now uses the term “surrounding,” speaking besides of the fact that the USSR is no longer alone in the world and emphasizes as do Stalin and other speakers the rupture of the encirclement in fact since the last war, but does not draw any adequate conclusion so far as the state is concerned.

If the “economic base of (our) state has expanded and consolidated,” if “friendly collaboration between the workers, peasants and intellectuals who compose Soviet society has been further knitted together,” and if imperialist encirclement has been attenuated, the State should be disappearing at least a little instead of being “strengthened to the utmost.”

Malenkov glorifies the specific apparatus of coercion (a coercion exercised primarily internally) which is the State and prepares the “passage to communism” in the USSR flanked by a more powerful GPU than ever! (Malenkov speaks specifically “of the organisms of security and information” which should be further strengthened “by all means.”) This crying contradiction would alone suffice to negate the picture of “a friendly collaboration of workers, peasants and intellectuals who compose Soviet society” and in which the bureaucracy is non-existent.

In the reports on the party by Malenkov and by Krutchev, the emphasis is placed both on the need of reviving “self-criticism and criticism from below” as well as on “discipline” and on “loyalty” toward the state and the party. The Bonapartist tops of the bureaucracy are trying to both curb the excesses of bureaucratism which estranges the masses from the party and pushes them into indifference, to refurbish the leadership in their eyes, and to take a firmer hold on the party.

Widespread corruption in bureaucratic circles appears dangerous both as to the proper working of the economy and the administrative apparatus, and because of its compromising effects for the whole of the bureaucracy with regard to the masses.

The lengthy tirades in both reports on these questions art not mere rhetorical exercises. They correspond to a threatening objective reality against which the bureaucratic tops of the bureaucracy is reacting in its own way. What should be particularly noted in this part of Malenkov’s report is the passage which confirms the existence and activity of a conscious political opposition in the USSR, recruiting among the elements of the new generation, animated by elements having belonged to the Left Opposition; the Zinoviev and Bukharin groups in the past.

“People alien to us, all types of elements from the dregs of anti-Leninist groups smashed by the Party, seek to lay their hands on those sectors of ideological work which for one reason or other are neglected by Party organizations and where Party leadership and influence have weakened, in order to utilize these sectors for, dragging in their line and reviving and spreading various kinds of non-Marxist ‘viewpoints’ and ‘conceptions.’”

Speaking of culture, Malenkov complains about “mediocrity, the absence of ideological content, the distortions” which characterize many literary and artistic works in the USSR. The cinema, painting, often the novel do not always correspond “to the ideological and cultural level of the Soviet man” which “is incomparably higher.”

Malenkov indicts the writers and the artists and feigns to ignore the real causes of academism, byzantinism which generally characterize literary and artistic production in the USSR: the police and bureaucratic political regime which remove the possibility of free creation from the writers and the artists.

Malenkov is not content with works that depict a Soviet life “without contradictions,” flat as a colored postal card, without humor and satire. He cries out: “We need Soviet Gogols and Schedrins whose scorching satire would burn out all that is negative, decaying and moribund, everything that acts as a brake on our march onward.”

But in that case it would be necessary to burn out, to eliminate the bureaucracy. It is they who brake “the movement onward” and who terrorize the Gogols.

The “official” art and culture of bureaucratic and police regimes were always formalist, academic and byzantine. The satire of the Gogols, non-official art, which blossoms in illegality against the prevailing regime, has contributed its part to overthrowing it. There should be no doubt that one of the forms which the struggles of the new generations in the USSR against the bureaucracy will take will be that of art, literature and science. Malenkov will have his Gogols, his Goyas, Daumiers and his Galileos. They are already beginning to make their way.

December 12, 1952


Footnote

1.

 

USSR 1952

US1951

(in millions of tons)

Pig Iron

  25

  64   

Steel

  35

  95.5

Coal

300

528   

Oil

  47

307.5

 

(in billions of kw. hrs.)

Electric power

117

482.3


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