Courtesy Reuters

The Enigma of Soviet Production

THE rôle which the Soviet Government will play in the crucial months ahead is a principal question mark of international politics today. Among the determining factors none is more important, particularly as affecting Russo-German relations, than the state of the Soviet national economy.

The success of the first two Five Year Plans was so widely publicized by the great host of Communist fellow-travellers and liberal and socialist sympathizers outside of Russia that the U.S.S.R. was generally assumed to have become an industrial giant. This impression, strong during the early and middle thirties, has however been rapidly fading in recent years. The third and current Five Year Plan, covering the years 1938-42, has received much less attention in the outside world than did its two predecessors. This has been due not only to the exodus of Left intellectuals and journalists from the Communist fold following the signing of the Russo-German Pact, but also to the reticence of the Soviet authorities in giving facts and figures concerning the state of Russia's industrialization program. Since 1937 Soviet statistics have become more and more incomplete and obscure, and the natural conclusion is that there are serious failures to be hidden. This conclusion squares with the facts as we know them. The reports of the few foreigners who have recently come out of Russia tell of continuing, and even increased, hardships being endured by the mass of the people. Such a trustworthy observer as Mr. Spencer Williams, who lived ten years in the Soviet Union, has stated that conditions this last year were almost as hard as in the near-famine years of 1931-33. All witnesses agree that the Finnish War threw the Russian transport services into chaos and in general seriously set back the country's material condition.

Soviet statistics now usually give only figures of value, not quantity. Since no one can say what is the value of the ruble -- because of the tremendous inflation of the past decade and because no

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