Published in:

Izvestiya of the Siberian Branch,
USSR Academy of Sciences, #13,
Economics and Applied Sociology,
iss. 3, 1987




P. O. Aven, V. M. Shironin





The need noted at the XXVII Congress of the CPSU for “deep restructuring of the economic mechanism” requires no proof today. Also not subject to serious debate are the main directions of impending reform - broadening the economic independence of enterprises, strengthening the role of economic stimulants and levers, gradual transition to wholesale trade of means of production, etc. The opinion that it is necessary to move from predominantly administrative to predominantly economic methods of regulating economic life is essentially a generally held one now.

However, while supporting the reigning idea of the general direction of reform, many economists express doubt in the possibility it can be quickly and successfully carried out and in the readiness of the economic science for restructuring [perestroika] of the economic mechanism, which must be “the deepest and most radical since the moment socialist society was built.”

What lies at the basis of such pessimism, of such a skeptical attitude toward plans for reform? Most of all, it is the unsuccessful results of previous attempts at reforming the economic mechanism undertaken in the USSR and in foreign socialist countries. It is enough to refer to the attempts at cardinal reforms of 1965 and partially in 1979 in the USSR, attempts at radical reform in 1965-1969 in Czechoslovakia, in the mid-70’s in Poland, etc. The transition from war communism to NEP and, beginning in 1979, the new stage of reform of the economic mechanism in Hungary, are practically the only examples of a successive transition from “administrative” to “economic” regulation.

Naturally, the question arises as to what basis there is for hope in the success of the reform of the economic mechanism beginning in the USSR. To answer this question it is necessary to understand the reasons for prior failures and to determine to what extent these reasons are now absent. Unfortunately, questions of history and theory of economic reformation under socialism did not receive sufficient illumination in Soviet scientific literature. At the same time, many authors write about the necessity of perestroika, emphasizing the complexity of the situation in the economy and the impossibility of assuring “good” development through old methods. A certain automatism is actually assumed in carrying out reform, when the situation itself acts as guarantor of the reality of the outlined transformation.

In spite of the absence of Russian works on the history of the 1965 reform, it is a generally held opinion that the main reason for its gradual “washing away” was the lack of interest in reform on the part of powerful social groups and most of all the “apparatus.” It is impossible not to agree with this assertion - the success of any reform is possible only when social forces interested in it are greater than those forces interested in stagnation. This means that for reform