Daily Archives: July 14, 2012

Setting the Record Straight on Soviet Agriculture

An interesting article argues that Soviet agriculture was not a failure at all, but was instead quite successful in certain ways.

Per Capita Consumption of Meat and Fish in 1980
in Kg. 

            USSR   UK
Beef        11     12
Pork        23.5   6.1
Poultry     6.0    9.8
Fish        17     7.1
Total Meat  57.5   35
Fresh Fruit 37     30.7
Sugar       42.2   16.5

As you can see, in 1988, Soviet citizens ate almost 50% more meat than your average Brit. They ate 4 times more pork, 2 1/2 times more fish and about the same amount of beef. The Brits ate a bit more chicken. Soviet citizens ate a bit more fruit than Brits did, this amid typical complaints that fresh fruit was almost nonexistent in the USSR.

Yes, there were chronic shortages and long lines, and much was made of this. Even Soviets themselves were often frustrated by the food situation. But you can see that the shortages and lines were occurring in the context of some respectable levels of consumption.

Daily Per Capita Consumption Of Calories & Protein 
In The Late 1960's

               Calories   Protein
               (Per Day) (Ounces Per Day)

United States  3,200      3.39
USSR           3,180      3.24
Britain        3,150      3.10
West Germany   2,960      2.86

There were shortages of meat in the 1980’s, but that was due to increased consumption, not declining output. In the 1960’s, there were meat surpluses, but meat was highly priced so it was an expensive item for most families. In the 1980’s, the price was the same as in the 1960’s but wages had increased by 2 1/2 times.

US rural life is characterized by harsh working conditions, poor housing, inadequate diets and low wages. Outside of the gulags, none of that was true of rural life in the USSR.

Per Capita Meat Consumption 1988

       Norway Sweden Japan

USSR   +      =-      2X

In 1988, Soviet meat consumption was higher than Norway, a bit lower than Sweden and twice that of Japan.

Since the 1960’s, Soviet food consumption had been running on a par with the developed world.

USSR vs US, 1989 

Hogs      More
Sheep     More
Cattle    More
Wheat     Higher Production  
Rye       Higher Production
Oats      Higher Production
Barley    Higher Production
Cotton    Higher Production
Potatoes  Higher Production 
Sugar     Higher Production
Wool      Higher Production
Milk      Higher Production
Butter    Higher Production
Eggs      Higher Production
Fish      Higher Production

The need for grain imports post 1970 was not triggered by declining wheat production. Instead they were triggered by growing demand for and consumption of meat by the Soviet population along with increased income.

America is the largest importer of meat on Earth and is now a net importer of fruits, vegetables and fish. Does this mean that US agriculture in these areas has failed?

There are inefficiencies in both systems. In the US, farmers destroy hogs, burn grains and potatoes and leave crops to rot in the ground because prices are too low. In Europe, farmers dump crops along the side of the road and dump milk in ditches for the same reason, even though there are hungry people in most of these countries.

Combines miss 20% of the corn crop every year and it is left to rot. Due to market mechanisms, it is not profitable to glean the missed corn from the ground and harvest it by whatever means. It is true that capitalist agriculture is more efficient than socialist agriculture when it comes to minimizing labor costs. But from a workers’ POV, one wonders if that is such a great thing.

In the USSR, workers lived on their farms year round while in US agriculture, farm work tends to be seasonal. Therefore, it was more costly for the USSR to support rear-round agricultural workers at their farms. Nevertheless, this capitalist efficiency has a high cost in rural areas: chronic high underemployment and rural poverty rates.

It is true that the US farm worker was 7-8 times more productive than a Soviet worker, but this was mostly due to increased mechanization in the US. There were .73 trucks per worker in the US and only .056 trucks per worker in the USSR.

However, Soviet workers were 3-25% more productive than Italian workers, and their productivity was similar to that of many West European farmers.

Productivity and yields for all crops continued to grow during the entire Soviet period all the way up until the end. Much of this was accomplished by increased cultivation of arable (but often marginal) lands.

Yields per acre varied, but the US typically produced twice as much per acre as the USSR. Part of this was due to poor growing conditions in the USSR. However, cotton yields in the USSR were typically 50% higher than those of the US, and for several years, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary had wheat yields per acre nearly double the US rate.

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Filed under Agricutlure, Capitalism, Economics, Health, Nutrition, Socialism, USSR

The USSR Did Not Fail

It’s commonly argues that the USSR failed. I would argue that it did not fail at all; instead, it was a spectacular success. For instance, in pre-revolutionary Russia there were famines and starvation deaths, often countless ones, every single year. There was never enough food to go around. Safe drinking water was rare outside the cities. Hardly anyone had electricity.

Soon after the USSR was established, everyone had safe drinking water. The whole country was wired up. And after the collectivization famines of the early 1930’s, full food security was achieved for the first time in Russian memory. And Soviet citizens at the end of the USSR’s reign ate just as well as West Europeans, as noted in a previous post.

It depends on your definition of success.

In fact, since the return of capitalism, agricultural production of fruits, vegetables and livestock collapsed. Production of all these things was much higher in the USSR.

This is what I would call a “market failure.” Apparently the reason for this market failure is that farming has been privatized, and the oligarchs with all the money in Russia now do not see agriculture as a profitable medium, hence they refuse to invest in it as there’s no money in it. And the banks don’t want to loan for farmers as they see it as a risky loan.

The majority of farm production is now occurring on small family farms, not large concerns.

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Filed under Agricutlure, Capitalism, Economics, Eurasia, Health, History, Nutrition, Regional, Russia, Socialism, USSR

Soviet Citizens Ate Just as Well As West Europeans

Steve writes, quoting a British author.

“While most citizens struggled to survive… a secret elite enjoyed great privileges: special living spaces, special hospitals, special schools, special lanes along which the Politburo’s limousines roared at 90mph.”

Yes, the elite lived somewhat better than the masses, but compare how much better the elite lives than the masses under capitalism to the privileges of the elite in the USSR and there is no comparison. Western elites have lifestyles dramatically superior by many times over those of the masses. The Soviet elite only lived somewhat better. The differences were not that dramatic.

This same author also wrote that the USSR was one of the most unequal states on Earth. No! Not so!

Anyway, since when do capitalists have issues with inequality? They should be praising the inequalities of the USSR to the skies as a glorious capitalist feature of the system.

They didn’t struggle to survive! That’s bullshit! For instance, food. They go on and on about food shortages. maybe there were some. But you know what? In the USSR, people at just as well as West Europeans did! In some cases, better.

They ate just as much bread products, fruits, vegetables and meat as West Europeans. Also just as much or more meat – fish, beef, pork. They ate just as much food in just as good a variety as you Brits did! So they had an excellent and nutritious diet.

They can go on and on about food shortages all they want to, but if they ate just as well as West Europeans, what differences does it make if some stuff was out of stock sometimes? They still ate just as well. In one place, some stuff was out of stock, in the other place, the shelves were full, but each one ate just as well as the other.

Now, some West Europeans may have eaten more luxury foods, shall we call them, then the Soviets did. But were those luxury foods available to all Soviets?

It’s true that Americans ate more of most types of food than Soviets did, but Americans also ate more of most types of food than West Europeans.

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Filed under Capitalism, Cold War, Economics, Europe, Health, History, North America, Nutrition, Regional, USA, USSR

Tang Dynasty, “The Internationale”

The Internationale, one of the greatest songs of the last century, is of course the anthem of socialists, anarchists and Communists the world over.

It is the official song of many Communist parties and is the official anthem of the Socialist International.

This is the best hard rock version of the Internationale ever done, off the Tang Dynasty’s 1992 album A Dream Return. This band is extremely popular with young Chinese, and this song has also become very popular with the same group. Tang Dynasty is best described as Chinese nationalists, but they also love Mao and CCP.

The Internationale is the international anthem of the working class the world over, sung and recorded in most major languages. Even if hate Commies, you have to admit it’s one kickass song.

There’s some great Mao-era footage in this video, with lots of photos of the Great Helmsman and young Chinese waving Little Red Books. Even with the major changes in China, Mao remains very popular. And its national yearly Congress, the CCP still plays an instrumental version of the Internationale.

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Filed under Asia, China, Economics, Ethnic Nationalism, Left, Maoism, Marxism, Music, Nationalism, Political Science, Regional, Rock, Socialism

Socialism is Winning, All Over the World

The Socialist International is an international organization of socialist and social democratic parties all over the world. It is one of the most powerful organizations on Earth because many nations all over the world have very powerful or even ruling parties that are members of the Socialist International. It might surprise you who is a member of that group.

For instance, the PRI in Mexico, the AD in Venezuela, APRA in Peru, the National Liberation Party in Costa Rica and the Liberal Party in Colombia are all members (not that those parties are any good!), as is the PRD in Mexico, New Space in Uruguay, the PNP in Jamaica, the Socialist Parties in Albania, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Uruguay and Yemen, the Labor Parties in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Israel, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia, the Social Democrats in Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania and Slovakia, PANOS in Greece, the Socialist Workers Party in Luxemburg, the Democratic Parties in Moldova, Slovenia and Serbia, the Democratic Party of Socialists in Montenegro, the People’s Party in Mongolia, the PUK in Iraq, the PPP in Pakistan, the PLO in Palestine, Congress in Nepal, the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties in Tunisia on and on. Of course the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and parties like Frelimo in Mozambique, MPLA in Angola, ANC in South Africa, FRETELIN in East Timor, Polisario in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and SWAPO in Namibia are also members.

Socialism isn’t losing at all. Socialist and social democratic parties of various forms are either ruling or in ruling coalitions of many to most countries on Earth or they are large parties in the opposition. Socialism hasn’t failed at all. It won, it’s winning, and it will continue to win.

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Filed under Economics, Left, Socialism