This book was written when the deeper truths about the Soviet Union, to which the eyes of many millions were opened for a short while during the war against Nazi Germany, were being temporarily obscured again by the passion of controversy about the settlement of Europe after the war.
Experience throughout the thirty years’ existence of the Soviet Union, however, suggests that study of the permanent features of the Soviet economy and polity, as they are, is a better guide to Soviet policy, and therefore to European peace and prosperity, than passion or prejudice.
The pages which follow are offered with that in mind.
There is no single thesis which this book attempts to sustain. In the first chapter it dwells on the intimate connection for the U.S.S.R. between planning and foreign policy. In the next four chapters it goes on to show the role of the individual in the Soviet economy before and after the second World War. The sixth chapter deals with the immensely important war-time changes in Soviet Central Asia, both economic and social. An Afterword ventures to challenge, in the light of the facts presented earlier, some recent misrepresentations of the Soviet method of planning.
Anyone entering this field of study is bound to be aware of the great expanses already cultivated in it, particularly by Mr. Dobb in his masterly history of Soviet economic development since 1917, by the Webbs in their volumes on Soviet Communism, by Mr. Baykov in his compendium of Soviet economic legislation and statistics, and by Mr. Burns in his study of Russia’s productive system. All these valuable works touch upon some of the questions treated in this book, but perhaps in less detail than the present writer has felt it desirable to devote.
Those who are looking for yet another of the many demonstrations that a Socialist system cannot work, and that the Soviet regime must inevitably collapse, will not find it here. Nor would this book give satisfaction to those (if they existed) who believed the U.S.S.R. to be an earthly paradise.
The revolution of November, 1917,took place in Russia because, among other reasons, it was the “ weakest link ”among the greater Powers. This meant that when the Soviet peoples began building a Socialist society they encountered, and are still encountering, many difficulties —both material and in the mind of man—such as are not solved in a hurry.
It is a mistake to think that they can be; but events have shown that it is even more of a mistake, and pregnant with more tragic consequences for the world, to see nothing but difficulties in the U.S.S.R., and to jump to the hasty conclusion that they are insurmountable.
One of the main purposes of this book, in fact, is to show how some of them are being surmounted, in the belief that better understanding of the strength as well as of the difficulties of the Soviet economic system may in the long run serve the interests of the British people.