Walther von Oldenburg wrote:There are several plausible historical scenerios leading to a better 20th century Russia. I want to concentrate on an alternative USSR.
What about such a scenerio?
1. Stalin comes to power but he follows Lenin's recommendations that New Economic Policy should stay for at least several decades (it does not matter why he does not revoke it - may even be a quantum fluctuation altering his mind). The Great Patriotic War follows the same course as it did but standard of living is less affected and it's recovery is faster after the war. Other communist countries follow the same model of economy.
2. After Stalin's death in 1953, Khrushchev comes to power and in mid and late 1950s he introduces minor economic reforms - inspired by NEP's success.
... and I have no idea what might've happened next. The goal is to have China-style reforms early or mid 1960s and further reforms in 1970s and 1980s. Trade policy should stay the same - a closed economic system within the communist block, with minimal exports and imports to countries outside the bloc.
*In the following I'll use Russia and SSSR unvariably of their meaning at the time. sorry for the confusion.
NEP would have exhausted the SSSR on the long term. The primarily agricultural nation that what Russia then, had three flaws.
a. It's main exports are raw materials and agricultural products.
b. Those are affected under typical Market consideration by the terms of trade. Badly. So while Russia could have exported its grain and ore for a good price initially, the terms of exchange would have worsened to imports, since Russia was in dire need of modernization.
c. That modernization leads to a urban exodus, inevitably. One that is far less controllable with the NEP and hurts the basis of the NEP as follows. As the terms of exchange worsen for the raw material exporters in favour of high value goods (look at today) and substitution takes time, Russia would have slowly needed more people to both work at the fields and become workers. This is the typical paradox of transforming economies. It is often solved by a mix of population growth and gradual modernization of the agriculture and/or bigger import penetration to sustain the needs of the population.
d. Then you have the balancing of the market. If the NEP works for the farmers, the industry will raise its prices to keep up the revenue, plus political pressure to perform. Why work in factory when you earn more by working on a farm?
You have then to take in account the Soviet nature, it is a socialist country and has VERY little room to breathe internationally. This was evident at the Genoa Conference when the Allies asked the SSSR to pay the Imperial pre-war debt. In lieu, the Soviets went on to sign the Rapallo treaty that would ultimately be very beneficial the Germany and the SSSR, but that would show the limits of a raw material exporter scheme for modernization overtime.
Now the SSSR wasn't a desert, it had brains and potential, but with the NEP the transition would have been longer and probably as (or even more chaotic).
While criminal, the dekulakisation was a product of the NEP "shortcomings" and helped stifle dissent and reorganize a Russian traditional country that had not moved since the early 20th century.
Furthermore the Georgian MOFO had this illumination about the 1929 crisis that contributed to the aura, big mustache would have among intellectuals. Bukharin fell of his chair during Black Thursday and Tuesday. Literally. So no, the NEP was a dead end, Stalin knew it, it wasn't a politically viable option for the Soviet leadership. And it would have aggravated the cost of modernization overtime. Dutch disease redux...
On the Chinese reforms during the 70's, how can you have a Chinese styled reform while your potential big investor is your biggest challenger and declared enemy. Furthermore, how would you like to develop the said reforms if your EcoPol is about Close Circuitry? China made that quantum leap in late 70's because the Chinese geared towards a State controlled economy serving as an export base, earning hard cash.
Russia never ever tried so by playing with oil prices. Even when it could in the early 70's. This was a mistake and a costly one. Soviets playing nice with the capitalist pigs during oil crisis in 73 would have eased some tensions and MAYBE allowed some Chinese style reforming and investment....