From the June 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Moscow correspondent of the Economist (February 27th, 1937) provides the answer to the question why did the Russian Government need the recent trials? It had to explain the breakdown of the grandiose five-year plans. This breakdown made it necessary to find scapegoats, since no dictatorship ever dare let the population know that the dictator and his advisers may themselves have pushed their plans to a point where they became top-heavy and unworkable. Only, now that scapegoats have been found, is the population being told how badly some of the plans have worked : —
Now that veteran Bolsheviks have confessed to deliberate sabotage. in several major industries, the Government permits its people to learn of distressing conditions hitherto kept from them. Sabotage explains everything; revelation of gross inefficiency need not cast discredit upon central planning, which, without some such explanation, might come into disrepute.
Official newspapers now reveal that conditions are most unsatisfactory on the railways, and in the non-ferous metal and chemical industries. Plants were designed hastily without an adequate knowledge of raw material resources. Capital was invested in the “least advantageous fields and those which presented the greatest difficulties for exploitation." For example, where lead and zinc ores were found together, only one or the other was utilised. Plans for new factories were altered locally, which resulted, according to one official newspaper, “ in complete irresponsibility and confusion."
In the chemical industry “plants frequently were designed with too large or too small capacities, in unsuitable places, for the production of an unnecessary assortment of goods, etc. Often plants were built at places where there was little ore." Funds were withheld from plants under construction, which often resulted in the suspension of building operations. Designs were altered after much of the construction work had been completed, which necessitated the demolition of finished buildings and their reconstruction. At the Krasno-Uralsk Combinat the metallurgical section was built with no provision for the use of bye-products.
All this, and much more, is now recorded in the official newspapers, and charged to Trotskyism. Whatever the cause may be, it is obvious that there has been terrific waste of capital funds and effort, and that thorough reorganisation of whole industries will be necessary. The official view is that reorganisation will be easy now that the wreckers in high places have been removed.
Now what becomes of the everlasting boasting by the British Communists of the marvellous success of the five-year plans? Whatever explanation they choose to offer for the breakdown, it now becomes obvious that their former boastings of success were not based on fact, but on the propaganda of the Russian Government, which excluded the truth about industrial inefficiency.