Agriculture in the Soviet Spotlight

Courtesy Reuters

MALENKOV'S speech before the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. on August 8, 1953, promising the Russian people much more food and manufactured consumer goods, made a great impression abroad. Perhaps it impressed the inhabitants of the lands behind the Iron Curtain, perhaps not. Who can tell? But in the West, at any rate, the promise was taken as announcement of a complete break with previous Soviet policy. Many learned conjectures were advanced to explain the important change and many imposing forecasts have been built upon it.

Is it really a new policy? Or had it, perhaps, already been proclaimed by the Party Directive for the Fifth Five-Year Plan, 1951-55, accepted in October 1952 by the Nineteenth Congress of the Communist Party and announced in a draft in August of that year? What we can profitably speculate upon is whether the Soviet Government is likely to be able to fulfill Malenkov's promises. And it is a fair guess that the Russian people are wondering about that also, since they have heard such promises before, and know that they were not fulfilled. The Third Five-Year Plan, for instance, pledged to raise the supply of consumer goods during the years 1938-42 slightly more than Malenkov has now promised; in fact, the supplies of consumer goods declined even during the three prewar years of that period.

What is certainly a fact is that Soviet heavy industry has grown rapidly, and from the recognition of that fact comes the belief of the outside world that if the Soviet Government were actually to shift its efforts from heavy industry to light industries and food, results would quickly follow. But is the matter so simple? Textile and food industries supply by far the largest part of the total requirements of consumer goods. Has the Soviet Union enough raw materials to expand them rapidly? Assuming continuation of the autarchic policy which has become sacred to the Soviet Government during the past 20 years, the only source of raw materials for

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