Oost-Europa en de vredesbeweging
door Henk Spaan
Agriculture in the Soviet Union (juni 1994)
In the following article we present an overview of developments in the Soviet Union. First we have concentrated on the history of collectivisation and on the consequences it had. Because collectivisation was a model for developments in Central European countries after World War II, this description is important.
Agriculture in the Soviet Union after collectivisation has been problematic. We have tried to describe the most important problems that Soviet agriculture faces both in crop and livestock production. It will be made clear that the problems are very complicated, and that problems in one section of agriculture are closely linked to problems in another. This is also clear in the last part of the article about the different endeavours to reform Soviet agriculture. Solving one problem may cause another. Whether reforms in Soviet agriculture will be successful in the near future is not yet certain.
War Communism and NEP.
In October 1917 the Russian Bolsheviks took power in Russia after the Tsar had been deposed in February by a rather spontaneous insurrection. In the months in between, the country was insecure and the Bolsheviks slowly gained influence by advocating an immediate end to the warfare, food for the people, and land for the farmers. Their main slogan was Peace, Bread and Land. With this slogan the Bolsheviks promised the peasants that the land of the landlords would be divided. In this way, they hoped to gain support for their taking power. The division of land to small farmers did not coincide with Marxist principles and Bolsheviks did not keep their promises long. In the years before the First World War, agricultural reforms were introduced. These Stolypin-reforms had tried to enforce the position of the middle-peasants as an example for the big majority of small peasants. Conservatives opposed these reforms because they supported the large land ownership of former feudal landlords (slavery had only been abolished in 1861). Bolsheviks also opposed the reforms because the reforms led agriculture toward a capitalist direction. In 1917 peasants spontaneously took land away from the landlords and this went on after the October revolution. Not only feudal landlords were victim of these occupations of land.
Soon after taking power, the Bolsheviks started to oppress conservatives, other non-Bolsheviks and also the richer middle-peasants who did not like communism very much. As early as summer 1918 Lenin started to campaign against the richer middle-peasants who were called Kulaks. The Stolypin-reforms were made invalid. Lenin propagated an alliance between poor peasants and village proletarians against the Kulaks. Seizure and redistribution of Kulakland took place in the first years after the revolution. The rural population started to dislike the new regime, and agricultural production stagnated. In the summer of 1918, the period of "War-communism" started: committees of poor peasants and especially "activists" from cities went to the countryside to requisition grain and other agricultural products for the city populations. In 1919 fifteen to twenty percent of the agricultural production was requisitioned, and in 1920 this was thirty percent.
Farmers reacted by reducing their production and by resisting the requisitioning. In hundreds of places there were insurrections and in some cases peasant armies were formed of as many as forty thousand people. The most famous insurrection took place in the Tambov region in the autumn of 1920; a large part of the insurrectionists were poor peasants. The situation was complicated because the peasants resisted both Bolsheviks and the armies of former tsarist officers. In February 1921 the protests and the huge famine that was the result of it, culminated in the insurrection against Bolshevik power of the Russian navy at Kronstadt. The insurrection was suppressed, but in the same week Lenin decided to abolish war communism and to introduce the NEP, the New Economic Policy. According to this policy, requisitioning was stopped and farmers were given the possibility of selling their products freely. Lenin called the introduction of the NEP a strategic retreat, a breathing space, which would make possible a new advance in the near future. This was what actually happened. Agricultural production recovered in the years between 1921 and 1927. The Bolsheviks succeeded in stabilising their position, and in 1927 they felt strong enough to start a new offensive. (Or maybe we should say that by 1927 Stalin had stabilised his position within the party and felt strong enough for new initiatives. Lenin had died in 1924 and it took some time before Stalin could be sure he would be his successor.)
The harvests in 1927 were disappointing. In January 1928 there was a grain shortage in the cities, which caused a rise in prices. The shortage could easily have been overcome by normal measures, but this time Stalin decided to start requisitioning again. His position within the party was strong and he thought that it was time to move forward to socialism, towards a more rational agriculture. That was the ideological part of his motives, but there were more material motives too. The peasantry in the Soviet Union were economically strong and could be a danger for the powermonopoly of the party. It was important to gain control over the peasants and over their products, and so Stalin decided to take measures. The measures were supposed to be taken against the Kulaks, but smaller peasants were requisitioned just the same. In the summer of 1928 the measures were repealed, but farmers had learned that their position, which had not been too strong during the NEP-period, was insecure once more. When prices would rise, requisitioning could start again; farmers reacted by sowing less or sometimes by selling their farms. As a result, the harvest of 1928 was worse than that of the year before. So in november of 1928 Stalin decided that extraordinary measures would now become a permanent policy. Regions, villages and farmers were ordered to deliver certain amounts of meat or grain.
Moreover, in 1929 the first experiments started in combining farms together into large agricultural collectives. Peasants were put under heavy pressure to become members of the new collectives. First some villages, and towards the end of the year complete districts, were collectivised. Entering a collective was voluntary at first, but more and more coercive methods were used in time. It became a normal practice that those who voted against forming a kolkhoz were obliged to enter if the majority was in favour. The experiments showed that force could really solve problems.
In the beginning of 1929 only a few collectives existed; they were weak collectives that consisted mainly of poor peasants. By November 7.6% of the households had been collectivised, and then voices were raised that this was too little. Requisitioning had caused trouble everywhere and made further collectivisation unavoidable. Stalin decided, for example, that the Ukraine had to be collectivised by the end of 1930. As for the Kulaks, he declared that they were the accursed enemies of the collective farm movement, and that it would be wrong to admit them into the collectives. In the Pravda of 29 December 1929 he declared: "We have gone over from a policy of limiting the exploiting tendencies of the Kulak to a policy of liquidating the Kulak as a class".
That was the moment collectivisation of agriculture really started. Party activists were sent to the countryside and they began looking for Kulaks. Estimates are that there were a million farms that could be called Kulak-farms. Including their families they were five million people and they were all arrested, imprisoned or exiled to the north. But not only they were suspected; everyone that supported them, or who had more than a few cows could be arrested. Reports from many villages show that at least 10% of the village population was taken away. Activists were ordered to find Kulaks and so they did, even where there were only poor peasants. It is clear that those who remained had no choice but to enter the collectives. Of course there were insurrections, but the Soviet army and police were now much better organised than in 1921, and the insurrections were suppressed. By 1933 collectivisation had been completed.
All peasants had entered collectives and they were allowed to keep only one cow, some sheep and pigs, and a small piece of land for themselves. The result of the collectivisation was a disaster. Agricultural production diminished because the whole countryside was in chaos; many peasants had eaten their livestock rather than handing them over to the collectives. The number of cows dropped from 7.5 million in 1929 to 1.5 million in 1933.
A famine all over the Soviet Union was the result, and unlike the famine in 1922, this time there was no support from western countries because outside the Soviet Union people did not know about it. The total number of casualties because of collectivisation may be estimated to be at least 10 million people who died in exile or from hunger. It took many years before agriculture recovered even partially. Before the First World War, Russia was the biggest producer of grain in the world, and the Ukraine was called the granary of Europe. After the collectivisation, many years of famine followed; even up to now the Soviet Union is forced to import large quantities of grain and other agricultural products.
Agriculture became a "planned" part of the economy after 1932. The state ordered the farms to produce a certain quantity of products, and the farms did their best to deliver these ordered quantities. In Stalin's days these quantities were impossible to fulfill, and after his death the problem arose that farms did their best to produce nothing more than their task, or to do as little as possible. Under such conditions, improvements could hardly take place because there was little opportunity and there was little willingness to experiment. That is a problem in the Soviet "planned" agriculture up to now. Changes have to be introduced in the form of campaigns from above and in many cases these reforms seem to be improvements in the beginning, but caused new problems afterwards.
Stalin died in 1953 and his successor Khrushchev tried to introduce some reforms. The farms obtained the freedom to sell what they produced above their quotas, and members of collectives also got more rights to sell what they produced on their private plots. After 1956, however, these liberalizations were repealed. At the same time, the uprising in Hungary was suppressed and collectivisation was definitively introduced in most Central European countries. In the Soviet Union farms were ordered to produce maize (even in areas that were not fit to produce maize) and Khrushchev "advised" owners of private plots to sell their cows and other livestock. Those who stuck to their private plots were called speculators or backward elements and were harassed. Between 1953 and 1958 production rose quickly, but after 1959 the results were disappointing again, and in 1963 the Soviet Union bought grain from the west (10 million tons) for the first time. (This was not necessarily a step backwards; before 1963 if there were shortages, people were forced to eat less.)
Shortage of grain.
In October 1964 the Central Committee sent Khrushchev away, and not long after that liberalizations were introduced that were similar to the liberalizations Khrushchev introduced in the period between 1953 and 1956. These reforms occurred at the same time as new investments were made in agriculture (new machinery, fertilizers) and made production rise from 135 million tons in the Khrushchev days to 180 million tons at the beginning of the seventies. Shortages in the food supply remained, however, because the population was growing faster than production and because there was an increasing need for grain for feeding animals for livestock production. 1972 produced a bad harvest, and the Soviet Union began purchasing grain on the world market on a big scale. In 1972, 20 million tons of grain were bought, which at that time was called "the great grain robbery". Since then these imports grew to forty million tons annually in recent times. Only in 1973, 1976 and in 1978 grain production was sufficient; after 1980 production went down again. Estimates are that the Soviet Union needs 260 million tons of grain annually. This production should be self attainable: for grain there is a total area of 127 million ha. available, which means that a mean production of only 2100 kilos per ha would achieve self-sufficiency. In Sweden or in England grain production per ha is three times that.
Underproduction of grain is one of the big traumas of the Soviet government. The problem is that raising domestic production turns out to be more difficult than importing grain from the west. Importing 35 million tons of grain cost in 1980 about 6 billion dollars, which is about 4.5 billion rubles at the official exchange rate. Total agricultural net imports amounted to 10 billion dollars, or 6 to 7 billion rubles. In the same period, about 40 billion rubles annually were invested in Soviet agriculture and the result of these huge investments was only a slight increase in production. It has to be taken into account that the worth of a dollar in the Soviet Union is much more than the official 0.65 ruble; agricultural imports amount to more than a quarter of the total Soviet imports.
One of the reasons for low grain production is the diminishing amount of land used for winter crops. Winter crops give almost twice as high a yield as crops sown in the spring. Especially the area used to plant winter rye went down from 23 million ha in 1950 to 9 million ha in 1985. Winter crops must be sown in September; but since this is a very busy harvesting month, and since there is a continuing lack of an adequate workforce in the countryside, plus mismanagement, the sowing of winter crops remains undone. An important aspect of the grain shortage is the shortage of protein in the grain. For a long time the Soviet Union concentrated on a high volume of production and not on the quality of the grain. Before 1913 Russian hard wheat was the best in the world, with 20 percentage protein. In 1940 this was still 19 percent, but in the sixties it went down to 13 percent. This was a consequence of a change towards cultivating soft wheat. Now there is a shortage of hard wheat.
The decrease in rye (with a high protein percentage) acreage is also a result of the fact that rye is a tall crop. The Soviet Union has not developed machines that are able to harvest these tall crops, and neither has it bred a shorter rye that is sufficiently productive. Rye can stand the Russian winter very well, and was characteristic for Russia once, but must be imported now. Furthermore, there has been a tendency to increase wheat production at the cost of other crops. Oats are popular with peasants because they can be sown early when the soil is still wet. Nowadays the machines are too heavy to work on wet fields. Production of crops like barley, millet, buckwheat and leguminous crops is stagnating mainly because there is a lack of adapted machinery. Recently the government is trying to stimulate production of the abovementioned crops by paying five times more for them than for wheat, but the results are not very striking yet.
Production of potatoes rose substantially since the First World War. They are predominantly cultivated on private plots because their cultivation requires much labour. Quite a lot has been done to develop mechanization and specialization in potato cultivation. This process is hampered, however, because of transport and storage problems. Potatoes need to be stored quickly before winter comes, but often there are no trucks available or there is no storage that gives protection against rain and frost. Vegetable production has the same problems and is still, like potatoes, produced for 70 percent on private plots.
A big problem in livestock production is that the price of all kinds of animal feed is not subsidised (as opposed to the price of human food grains). Feed grains are therefore expensive, and livestock production is the weakest part of Soviet agriculture. The goal of Soviet agricultural policy since the Second World War has been to stimulate meat production. Most of the agricultural investments were put into livestock production. When Khrushchev was dismissed, two new ministries were created for this purpose: the Ministry for Meat and Dairy Industry, and the Ministry of Machine Building for Livestock Farming and Fodder Production. These administrative measures brought about higher production costs, but had little positive effects. In 1970 the price farms received for a kilo of live weight of cattle and pigs was about the same as the price of meat in the state shops. So the costs of transport, slaughtering and trade all had to be paid for by the state. Since then, the price received by farms has almost doubled while retail prices have remained unchanged. (A similar situation existed for grain: farms received for a kilo of grain more than two times the retail price of a kilo of bread. Rising costs of production were never passed on)
Despite these subsidies, livestock farms had negative results and the volume of meat and milk production was systematically too low. Between 1975 and 1983 the purchase of meat and milk per person decreased by 10%. Despite considerable imports, meat was rationed in most cities (except for cities like Moscow and Leningrad). On the free market, prices for meat were often four or five times as high as in state shops.
The weather or natural conditions cannot be blamed for low production. The mean milk production per cow, for example, was 2238 kilo in the Ukraine in 1979, and 4300 kilo in Finland.
In every province in the Soviet Union there is one farm that is supposed to be a "model" for other farms. These model farm cows produce 5000 kilos per cow, and beef cattle have a good weight. Most of them are situated near a big city and have sufficient feed, machines and manpower at their disposal. This is not the case on other farms. In the last twenty years much has been invested in the meat processing industry and in dairy factories. Because of these investments, many smaller processing industries have gradually disappeared, and that has caused a big transport problem. Milk and cattle are hard to transport, certainly when roads are bad. Nowadays milk must often be transported for hundreds of kilometers and that gives big losses. It is possible that the investments in large-scale processing factories enlarged, instead of solved, problems in livestock farming. In 1986 the 27th Party Congress decided that the small-scale processing industry had to be restored, but since then no concrete steps have been taken.
Near many big cities, specialised livestock farms have been built with 3,000 to 10,000 cows and beef cattle. They do not have transport problems, but they have big hygienic problems because the traditional breed of cattle needs pasture for normal growth. The organic fertilizer produced by the cattle is usually wasted. The biggest problem is the quantity and the quality of feed for the animals. Because of state pressure to produce more grain, meadows and pastures have been transformed into grain fields. The production of coarse fodder has been moved to fields of lower quality. Moreover, many excellent meadows have disappeared under water for the construction of hydroelectric plants. Technically the production of coarse fodder is barely developed. Losses are caused by mowing too late, and by bad treatment of the hay after harvesting: ninety percent remains uncovered in the fields. The work is often done with scythes, rakes and pitchforks by brigades of urban work force. Every year millions of scholars, workers, students and officials are mobilised for the animal fodder campaigns.
In the beginning of the eighties plans were made to introduce reforms into agriculture. These plans led in November 1985 to the unifying of different ministries into one big agricultural ministry, Gosagroprom. Previously there had been a ministry of agriculture, a ministry of machinery, a ministry of procurement, of food industry, of agricultural construction, of fruit and vegetables, and some others. Departments of the different ministries in provinces were united as well into one regional organization, the socalled RAPO's.
In the next step, the planning system was simplified in March 1986. Until then production was centrally planned in detail for every farm. Now Gosagroprom decides production levels for the RAPO, and gives RAPO the freedom to decide how and where these levels will be realised. The RAPO can now make a mutual agreement with the farms, and formally there is no longer centrally planned agriculture. However, the freedom to make an agreement is limited because RAPO's are obliged to supply the quantities fixed by Gosagroprom.
In the last ten years farms obtained more possibilities to sell their products outside the state organizations. State organizations remain the most important, but farms may now sell to consumer cooperatives or they may sell directly to consumers in the city. An important restriction is the fact that price levels are not free. Most people agree that prices should reflect the real value of products more than is now the case. But price reforms will undoubtedly have big effects, and the government hesitates to introduce them. For tens of years retail prices were kept low to keep urban population satisfied. When, after Stalin's death, the government began to take into account the interests of the rural population, the prices paid to farms began to rise. For example, in 1983 the prices received by farmers were raised to neutralise the rising of production costs. This rise in prices was not passed on to the consumer. In 1987 the state paid 57 billion rubles to keep down retail prices, which is about one third of the total market value of food in the Soviet Union. (In Western Europe large amounts of money are spent to subsidise agricultural production, but in Western Europe the situation is one of overproduction, while the situation in the Soviet Union is one of huge shortages).
One of the most conspicuous negative effects of subsidies in the Soviet Union is that the price of bread is lower than the price of feed grains. Therefore, it is not unusual that bread is used as animal feed.
Prices do not reflect the real value of things. Paying officially fixed prices for means of production is not enough to obtain these means of production. It is not unusual that the same amount must be paid in addition as bribes of some kind. Farms that suffer losses can be sure that their debts will sooner or later be ameliorated, and in fact farms cannot become bankrupt.
One of the aims of the reforms is to abolish all kinds of special settlements with farms, make it possible that farms can become bankrupt, and force them to look for commercial credit in the future. That way farms will be obliged to take the real costs of investments and inputs into account. The problem is that introducing commercial credit will raise the already high debts of some farms, and what will happen to these farms? A reorganization of debts could solve the farm's problems, but it is precisely the continuing reorganization of debts that the reforms want to abolish. On the other hand, the actual closing down of farms is not very attractive because the volume of agricultural production will suffer from that.
A similar dilemma is that reforms to improve or increase physical production are difficult if workers on farms are not satisfied with their payment. But higher wages have a negative effect on the economic results of the farms. About one third of the total amount the state spent in supporting the weaker farms has been spent in the form of higher wages. Government policy is now to reduce this percentage. Total costs in wages may not increase more than the rise in productivity. Reforming the economic situation of farms should actually imply lower wages, but the willingness of workers to cooperate will decrease as wages decrease.
Stimulating production with socalled contract brigades is an attempt to escape the above-mentioned dilemmas. Contract brigades came into existence in the fifties as normal work brigades that were given a certain degree of freedom to organise their work. Most of them disappeared in the seventies, but in 1982 Brezhnev encouraged working in contract brigades in agriculture. Between 1982 and 1986 the percentage of contract brigades in the total agricultural workforce rose from 9 to more than 50 percent. This may seem more than it in reality is. At first these contract brigades were mainly traditional work brigades working with a contract instead of working by order. Within a contract brigade there could be big inequalities, and sometimes the differences between traditional brigades and contract brigades was very small. Making contracts was stimulated from above and therefore it could be advantageous to call a brigade a contract brigade. When Gorbatshev came to power, the policy changed towards contracts with smaller groups or with families.
Different kinds of contracts are possible. Sometimes there is an agreement to deliver a certain amount of grain, or to cultivate a certain area, or to take care of a number of cows. Sometimes the brigades can dispose of their production themselves, sometimes the complete production process and the sale is fixed in the conditions of the contract. Since 1985 other measures have made making contracts more attractive. Legal possibilities have been made to lease land and buildings for a maximum period of 50 years. Moreover, peasants may now buy machinery and employ workers in busy periods. In the new law on cooperatives, it is explicitly forbidden for state organizations to interfere into the business of private enterprises and of small cooperatives. Furthermore, the prohibition against private farmers possessing a horse or more than one cow has been abolished. Private possession of horses is now being stimulated because the machine industry is not expected to be able to supply the needed number of small tractors in the short run.
In the Baltic republics further steps have been taken towards privatizing agriculture. In January of this year, 3900 private farms were established in Latvia, in Lithuania 1200 and in Estonia 800. In principle there are good possibilities for contract brigades and for private farms in the Soviet Union. It may be expected that much of the characteristic negligence in big scale collectives can be avoided if the producers themselves suffer from it. People working in contract brigades earn more than members of collectives, twice as much sometimes. Yet this form of privatization has certain limitations. The increasing number of contracts has led to only a small increase of production up to now. Contracts were made in sectors of agriculture that were economically attractive. Production of feed grains and potatoes, making hay, and transport require much labour force and are not attractive for contract brigades. This work is now left to women, older people, and urban work brigades, and it has a negative effect on total production. Possibilities of contract brigades is also limited by the fact that kolkhozes and sovkhozes remain obliged to deliver the quantities of production that were agreed upon with the RAPO's, just like the RAPO's remain obliged to deliver the quantities fixed by Gosagroprom. So it still is quite usual in January that there is a sudden increase in the number of cattle offered for slaughter. Farms still do their best not to deliver more than the quantities that are fixed in order to avoid higher quotas being set the next year.
And then there is opposition from above, from provincial or farm officials. Izvestia of January of this year reports the suicide of a farmer in the Tomsk province, who, with some other sovkhoz members, made a lease contract with the sovkhoz two years ago. They fed 160 bull calves and heifers, grew and harvested 100 hectares of grain, and put up hay for their herd. They had almost enough feed of their own for the whole winter. Doing things as they saw fit rather than according to someone's command, they managed to make about 30.000 rubles in seven months. People saw this with envy and the farm office openly supported the envious people by stirring up gossip about the greed of the farmers. The farmers had much trouble to convince officials that they had really earned the money. In the end, the management made the team an offer under which they would work twice as hard as sovkhoz workers, but receive the same amount of money. The team received 100 rubles for 100 kilos of meat, and the farm received another 150 rubles, so the farm did not come out a loser. But it was not enough. As a consequence of the pressure, the farmers gave up their lease contract and now there are no more lease contracts on the farm, nor in the whole district. Izvestia adds that this was one of many more examples. Contract brigades are no guarantee for success of reforms in Soviet agriculture. They are a step forward, but must certainly must be followed by others.
Several problems remain to be solved for Soviet agriculture:
- There is a permanent shortage of a workforce in Soviet agriculture. Parts of the countryside are depopulating, especially the non-chernozem zone (the northern zone where there is no black earth) of the Russian republic. This is accelerated by the absence in many villages of important non-agricultural provisions like shops, etc.
- Mechanization in agriculture has not succeeded in achieving what it should in the first place: to reduce the quantity of the labour force needed in busy periods. Still an important part of then urban population must help in the harvesting season. It is clear that the quality of this labour is not high.
- The rural population is very reluctant to embrace reforms because there are no guarantees that cooperation will not be punished again like has happened so many times before in the Soviet Union. (In this respect there is a difference with the countries in Central Europe, where changes seem to be more lasting).
- There is an extensive bureaucracy; many people have non-productive functions, and their self interest lies primarily in maintaining their position rather than changing the system, since that may lead to disappearance of their jobs.
- Problems will remain as long as the responsibility for the quantity of production is laid outside of the farmers, and as long as the level of prices is centrally fixed. This makes it hard for farms to manoeuvre and to adapt to changing circumstances.
- There are many chronic technical problems such as agricultural machinery that is too heavy, insufficient storage space, and insufficient transport capacity (this last problem is aggravated by the fact that roads are bad, and that the processing industry is highly centralised).
- Erosion is a big problem in Soviet agriculture. According to official data of the Research Institute of Soil Protection, one and a half billion tons of topsoil is lost annually due to erosion. In 1986 three soil scientists published in Pravda an article in which they maintained that in the last thirty years the topsoil of the black earth region lost one third of its humus and became 10 to 15 centimetre thinner. Two hundred years of harvesting without fertilising would give the same loss of soil quality. This same report states that 157 million of a total of 605 million hectares suffers from salination due to irrigation.
- Another problem is that the concentration of DDT and of other insecticides in the soil is sometimes eight, sometimes twenty or even more times higher than allowed.
- Just as big is the problem of soil contaminated by heavy metals (such as chrome, cobalt or cadmium) due to indutrialization. For example, in Tshimkent the concentration of lead is 350 times higher than allowed, and in Kirgisia the concentration of mercury is 100 times higher.
The Soviet Union is going through an important period in its history. Since Gorbatshev came to power, he introduced reforms that have had huge influences in the Soviet Union and outside the country. He has started developments, but it is not clear yet where they will end. It is often said that the success of Gorbatshev's Perestroika depends on its results in agriculture. This may be true indeed. Agricultural policy in the Soviet Union has never been very successful. The idea that "planned" agriculture would be superior to family farming now seems to be an error. The Soviet Union is a net importer of agricultural products while Russia was a big exporter before the First World War. Shortages are now common and the main problem of agricultural policy is how to obtain higher production. One can hardly expect the Soviet population to cooperate in reforming communist society, if this society does not even supply its most basic material needs. Gorbatshev is not as popular in the Soviet Union as he is in the West.
Can the West help raise agricultural production in the Soviet Union? This is not easy to say. Western countries have a lot of experience in organising an efficient economy, and therefore there is a lot the Soviet Union can learn. Moreover, western countries have resources they can put at the disposal of Soviet government in order to strengthen its position. On the other hand, western countries have developed a technology which aims at replacing the labour force by machinery. This machinery was (and is) expensive and requires good roads, developed markets, a complete infrastructure. Much western technology (also in agriculture) may not be effective if it is employed in Soviet circumstances. In the Soviet Union, labour is cheap compared to capital assets (especially western assets) and that requires a different technology. If perestroika means a fast introduction of western technology, one can have doubts that this will succeed because this was precisely what Gorbatshev's predecessors already tried. They introduced some western technology but forgot that this technology was developed for western circumstances. The costs for the Soviet Union were huge and the results were disappointing. It will be difficult not to make the same mistakes again because undoubtedly western technology is tempting.
J.C. Brada and K. Wädekin; Socialist agriculture in transition; Boulder, 1988.
M.J. Broekmeyer; De Russische landbouw - Boeren, dorpen, platte-land; Utrecht / Antwerpen, 1983.
Robert Conquest; The Harvest of Sorrow; London, 1986.
Zhores A. Medvedev; Soviet Agriculture; New York / London, 1987.
Eberhard Schinke; Reformen in der Sowjetischen Landwirtschaft (mit einem Kommentar von Alec Nove); Bericht des BIOst nr. 24 / 1989.