The question of the reasons for the collapse and destruction of the USSR is far from idle. It does not lose its relevance today, after 22, after the death of the Soviet Union occurred. Why? Because some based on this event conclude that, they say, the capitalist model of the economy is more competitive, more efficient and has no alternatives. American political scientist Francis Fukuyama after the collapse of the USSR even hurried to declare that the “End stories»: Humanity has reached the highest and last stage of its development in the form of universal, global capitalism.
The relevance of studying the shadow economy of the USSR
According to this kind of political scientists, sociologists and economists, the discussion of the socialist model of the economy does not deserve attention. It is better to concentrate all forces on improving the capitalist model of the economy, that is, a model that aims all members of society towards enrichment, and the means of enrichment (profit) is the exploitation of one person by another. True, this results in such “natural” attributes of the capitalist model as social and property inequality, competition, cyclical crises, bankruptcies, unemployment, and the like. All the proposed improvements are aimed only at mitigating the anti-human effects of capitalism, which is reminiscent of utopian attempts to limit the appetites of the wolf, devouring sheep.
We will proceed from the fact that the key socio-economic features of the socialist model are welfare for all members of society (goal), public ownership of the means of production (main means), earning income exclusively from work, the planned nature of the economy, centralization of economic management, command the position of the state in the economy, public consumption funds, the limited nature of commodity-money relations, and so on.
This refers to the welfare not only in the form of products and services that provide vital (biological) human needs. This should also include public safety and defense, education, culture, working and rest conditions. Of course, socialism is not only economy and social relations. It also implies a certain type of political power, ideology, a high level of spiritual and moral development of society, and more. High spiritual and moral needs should assume the presence of higher goals in relation to socio-economic goals. But we will focus now on the socio-economic aspect of the socialist model.
So, the erosion of the socialist model began long before the tragic events of December 1991, when the shameful agreement on the division of the USSR in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha was signed. This was already the final act of political order. This is not only the date of death of the USSR, but also the date of complete legalization of the new socio-economic model, which is called "capitalism". However, implicitly capitalism matured in the depths of Soviet society for about three decades. The de facto Soviet economy has long acquired the characteristics of a multi-structured one. It combined socialist and capitalist ways. However, some foreign researchers and politicians stated that de facto in the USSR there was a complete restoration of capitalism back in the 1960-1970-s. The restoration of capitalism was linked to the emergence and development in the depths of the USSR of the so-called shadow or “second” economy. In particular, as early as the beginning of 1960, a member of the German Communist Party, Willy Dikhut, began publishing his articles, in which he stated that, with the coming to power in our country, N.S. Khrushchev happened (not started, but it happened!) The restoration of capitalism in the USSR.
The shadow economy functioned on principles different from the socialist ones. One way or another, it was connected with corruption, embezzlement of state property, obtaining unearned income, violation of laws (or using “holes” in the legislation). At the same time, the shadow economy should not be confused with the “unofficial” economy, which did not contradict the laws and principles of the socialist system, but only supplemented the “official” economy. First of all, this is individual labor activity - for example, the work of a collective farmer in a personal plot or a citizen in his summer cottage. And in the best of times (under Stalin), the so-called industrial cooperation, which was engaged in the production of consumer goods and services, was widely developed.
In the USSR, state and party authorities preferred to ignore the phenomenon of the shadow economy. No, of course, law enforcement agencies opened and suppressed various operations in the shadow economy. But the leaders of the USSR, commenting on this kind of history, got off with phrases like “exceptions to the rule”, “isolated flaws”, “flaws”, “mistakes” and the like. For example, at the beginning of the 1960s, the then First Deputy Council of Ministers of the USSR, Anastas Mikoyan, defined the black market in the USSR as “a handful of some dirty foam that floated to the surface of our society”.
The shadow economy of the USSR: some estimates
No serious studies of the shadow (“second”) economy in the USSR have been conducted until the end of the 1980s. Abroad, such studies have appeared before. First of all, mention should be made of the work of the American sociologist Gregory Grossman (University of California), which was called “Destructive independence. The historical role of genuine trends in Soviet society. " It became widely known after it was published in 1988 in the collection “The Light at the End of the Tunnel” (University of Berkeley, edited by Stephen F. Cohen). However, Grossman's first article on this topic appeared in the year 1977 and was called “The Second Economy” of the USSR ”(Problems of Communism, September-October 1977).
You can also mention the book of Soviet lawyer Konstantin Simis, who emigrated to the US, “Corruption in the USSR - the secret world of underground Soviet capitalism”, published in 1982 year. The author in 1970-e years in close contact with some shadow businesses, a lawyer whom he spoke at the trials. However, K. Simis does not provide quantitative estimates of the shadow (“second”) economy.
Later the works of American sociologists and economists of Russian origin, Vladimir Treml and Mikhail Alekseev, appeared. Since 1985, Gregory Grossman and Vladimir Treml have been publishing periodicals on the “second” economy of the USSR. Issues continued until 1993, with a total of 51 research published with 26 authors. Many studies consisted of sociological surveys of families of immigrants from the USSR (total 1061 family). For research, surveys of emigrants from other socialist countries, official statistics of the USSR, publications in the media and scientific journals of the Soviet Union were also used. Despite the differences in the number of quantitative estimates of individual authors, these discrepancies were not fundamental. Differences arose from the fact that some authors considered the "informal economy", others - the shadow economy; however, their definitions of both economies could not be the same.
We present some results of these studies.
1. In 1979, the illegal production of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages, as well as the speculative resale of alcoholic beverages produced in the “first economy”, provided revenues equal to 2,2% of GNP (gross national product).
2. In the late 1970s, the shadow gasoline market flourished in the USSR. From 33 to 65% of petrol purchases in urban areas of the country, individual car owners accounted for gasoline sold by drivers of state-owned enterprises and organizations (gasoline was sold at a price lower than the state).
3. In Soviet hairdressing, "left" income exceeded the amount that customers paid through cash. This is just one example of the fact that some state-owned enterprises belonged de facto to the “second” economy.
4. In 1974, the share of work on private and household plots accounted for almost a third of all working time in agriculture. And this was almost 10% of the total working time in the economy of the USSR.
5. In 1970-ies, about a quarter of agricultural production was produced in private plots, much of it went to collective farm markets.
6. At the end of the 1970s, about 30% of all incomes of the urban population were derived from various types of private activities, both legal and illegal.
7. By the end of the 1970s, the proportion of people employed in the “second economy” reached 10-12% of the total labor force in the USSR.
At the end of the 1980s, a number of works appeared on the shadow and “second” economies in the USSR. First of all, these are the publications of the Soviet economist Tatiana Koragina and the director of the Research Institute of Gosplan Valery Rutheiser. Here are the data from the work of T. Koryagina "The Shadow Economy of the USSR". The annual value of illegally produced goods and services at the beginning of 1960-s was approximately 5 billion rubles, and at the end of 1980-s reached 90 billion rubles. At current prices, the GNP of the USSR was (in billions of rubles): in the 1960 year - 195; in the 1990 year - 701. Thus, the USSR economy over the thirty years has grown 3,6 times, and the shadow economy - 14 times. If in 1960, the shadow economy in relation to the official GNP was 3,4%, then by 1988, this figure increased to 20%. True, in 1990, it was equal to 12,5%. Such a recession was caused by a change in Soviet legislation, which transferred a number of economic activities that were previously considered illegal to legal status.
According to T. Koryagina, the number of people employed in the shadow economy at the beginning of 1960 was 6 million people, and in 1974 the number increased to 17-20 million people (6-7% of the country's population). In the 1989 year of such shadow businesses, there were already 30 million people, or 12% of the population of the USSR.
Threats and consequences of the development of the shadow economy in the USSR
Both American and Soviet researchers pay attention to some features of the shadow economy and its influence on the general situation in the USSR.
1. The shadow economy as a noticeable phenomenon of Soviet life arose at the end of the 1950's - the beginning of the 1960's. All researchers unequivocally attribute this to the coming to power in the country of N.S. Khrushchev, who beside his ill-considered decisions released a genie from the shadow economy. It is noteworthy that even those authors who have a rather negative attitude towards Stalin are forced to admit that there was almost no shadow or underground economy during the period in which Stalin was in power. But it was legal small-scale production - for example, industrial artels in cities. Khrushchev destroyed such small-scale production, shadows came in his place.
2. The shadow economy was more developed not in the central regions of the USSR, but on the periphery of the country. So, G. Grossman estimated that at the end of 1970-s the share of income from the “second” economy was about 30% of all incomes of the urban population in the USSR. At the same time, in the RSFSR it was close to the national average, while in the region of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, the average value was about 40%, in the South Caucasus and Central Asia - almost 50%. In Armenia, among ethnic Armenians, the indicator reached 65%. The hypertrophied development of the “second” economy in a number of union republics created the illusion that these regions are “self-sufficient”. They say that they have a higher standard of living than Russia, and they may well exist and develop outside the USSR. All this created fertile ground for separatist movements in the national republics.
3. The shadow economy existed at the expense of state resources, a significant part of it could function normally under the condition of the theft of material resources of state enterprises and organizations. Thus, the illusion was created that the shadow economy compensated for the shortcomings of the “white” economy. There was simply a “redistribution” of resources from the state (and collective farm) sector of the economy to the shadow sector.
4. The shadow economy spawned corruption. The owners of the shadow structures were engaged in bribing the leaders and functionaries of state enterprises and organizations. For what purpose? So that at least they do not interfere with the shadow business. And as a maximum - to become partners in such a business, assisting in the supply of raw materials, goods, vehicles, and the like. This is the first microeconomic level of corruption. This is followed by a second, regional level, which is associated with the bribery of law enforcement agencies and in general of local government bodies. A system of regional "protection" of the shadow business is being created. Finally, corruption is reaching a third, nationwide level. The shadow businesses start lobbying their economic interests in the ministries and departments. The economy only formally continues to develop as a “planned” one. Administrative economic decisions at the national level are beginning to be made under the influence of shadow businesses.
5. The owners of the shadow business accumulate such huge capital that allows them to engage in lobbying political power in the country. The shadow businesses are getting close within the framework of even the formal socialist mode of production. They begin to prepare a complete restoration of capitalism. It happened during the period in which M. Gorbachev was in power under the guise of the false slogans of perestroika. This restructuring was ultimately initiated not by M. Gorbachev or A. Yakovlev. It was organized by shadow capital, on orders of which the “reformers” from the CPSU acted.