Substance and Shadow in the Soviet Seven Year Plan

NIKITA Khrushchev's report on the new Seven Year Plan for 1959-1965, published last November and endorsed by the January Party Congress, is a package remarkable both for its content and its vivid wrapping. The hard content was provided by the data on past economic achievements of the Soviet Union which Khrushchev reviewed, as well as by what he revealed of his economic program for the seven years ahead. On both counts he had an impressive story to tell. In the 1950s, the Soviet record of industrial expansion, scientific advance and technological accomplishment has been a startling one. Even in agriculture, where the Soviet economic system had been failing badly, Khrushchev's own vigorous leadership has at last added a creditable page to the record by bringing about a striking expansion of output. This background of fast economic growth has also enabled the régime to let the consumer share increasingly in the fruit of his labor and sacrifices. Real incomes, however modest they still are by the standards of the richest Western countries, have been rising fast enough to give both workers and farmers a sense of measurable and continuous improvement. Moreover, Khrushchev has taken care in recent years to channel much of this improvement selectively into the worst areas of Stalinist neglect. He spearheaded a vigorous attack on the housing problem. His minimum wage and pension reforms brought some badly needed relief to the most underprivileged groups of Soviet society.

If Khrushchev's past economic record could well have spoken for itself, his preview of further advances to be made by 1965, and beyond, traced out a program also impressive enough, on its own merits, to cheer his followers and to force the West to take thoughtful notice of the dimensions which the Soviet economic challenge is likely to assume within the coming decade.

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