The Political Economy of Stalinism:

Friday, January 23, 2004
STANFORD

The formerly secret Soviet State and Communist Party Archives are used to describe the creation and operation of the Soviet administrative-command system in the new landmark volume The Political Economy of Stalinism: Evidence from the Soviet Secret Archives (Cambridge University Press, 2004) by Paul R. Gregory.

Gregory, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Cullen Professor of Economics at the University of Houston, and a team of researchers began work in 1996 on materials in the Soviet archives in Moscow and at the Hoover Institution.

What they determined, Gregory writes, was that the system in the Soviet Union failed not because of the "jockey" (i.e., Stalin and later leaders) but because of the "horse" (economic system).

"Although Stalin was the system's prime architect, the system was managed by thousands of 'Stalins' in a nested dictatorship," Gregory writes. "This study pinpoints the reasons for the failure of the system—poor planning, unreliable supplies, the preferential treatment of indigenous enterprises, the lack of knowledge of planners, etc.—but also focuses on the basic principal agent conflict between planners and producers, which created a sixty-year reform stalemate."

He notes that once Gorbachev gave enterprises their freedom, the system had no direction from either a plan or a market, and the system imploded. He believes that, if repeated today, this same "experiment" would retain its basic contradictions and inherent flaws and that the economic results would again prove inferior.

He also questions the feasibility of democratic socialism and disputes the presumed positive economic effects of coercion and terror.

Chapters in the book cover principles of governance, visions and control figures, operational planning, investment, wages and fairness, and money, prices, and budgets.

Paul Gregory is also research professor at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin. He has published widely in the field of Russian and Soviet economics for more than thirty years and served as a visiting professor at Moscow State University.

He edited Behind the Façade of Stalin's Command Economy (Hoover Institution Press, 2001) and The Economics of Forced Labor: The Soviet Gulag (Hoover Press, 2003). Among his other books are Restructuring the Soviet Economic Bureaucracy (1990); Before Command: The Russian Economic from Emancipation to Stalin (1994); and Russian National Income, 1885–1923. He is the coauthor (with Robert Stuart) of Russian and Soviet Economic Structure and Performance, now in its seventh edition. Gregory received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard in 1969.

He is the author of a forthcoming book on Gulag archival documents, which is based on the forthcoming six-volume documentation series sponsored by the Hoover Institution and the Russian State Archival Service.