Shepilov Attacks the Consumer Goods Line

Dmitrii Shepilov, The Party General Line and Vulgarizers of Marxism. January 24, 1955


By the beginning of 1955 a serious division had developed within the Soviet collective leadership on the issue of heavy industry versus consumer goods. The rising party theorist Dmitrii Shepilov attacked the emphasis on consumer goods in harsh terms, and in February, 1955, Malenkov was forced to confess his errors and resign as premier. He was replaced by Nikolai Bulganin, who for a time appeared to share power with party secretary Khrushchev as the collective leadership became a diarchy.

Original Source: Pravda, 24 January 1955.

Views utterly alien to Marxist-Leninist political economy and to the general line of the Communist Party on some fundamental questions of development of the socialist economy have begun to take shape of late among some economists and teachers in our higher educational Institutions …

…Preponderant development of production of means of production, advancing faster than production of consumers’ goods under capitalism, is the rule for the capitalist mode of production.

A completely different pattern is inherent in the socialist mode of production. Here the goal of production is man and his needs. Hence, say these economists, preponderant development of production of the means of production, of heavy industry, cannot be the law of the socialist mode of production, for, if it were, it is alleged, the contradiction between production and consumption would inevitably arise and grow constantly stronger. Preponderant development of production of the means of production, of heavy industry, has been an economic necessity only, if you please, in the early stages of development of Soviet society, when our country was backward. But, now that we have created a mighty industry, the situation has changed radically. Production under socialism is production for consumption. Faster production of means of production, of heavy industry, they say, contradicts the basic economic law of socialism. Hence the far-reaching conclusion: The policy, pursued by the party, of forced development of branches of heavy industry has allegedly entered into conflict with the basic economic law of socialism, since forced development of branches of heavy industry retards public consumption.

Grossly distorting the essence of party and government decisions to increase production of consumers’ goods, the authors of this conception assert that since 1953 the Soviet land has entered a new stage of economic development, the essence of which is allegedly a radical change in the party’s economic policy. While the party used to put the emphasis on developing heavy industry, now, if you please, the center a gravity has shifted to developing light industry, to production of consumers’ goods. Trying to present their imaginary formulae as requirements of the basic economic law of socialism, these economists propose setting an identical rate of development for heavy and light industry or even providing for preponderant development of light industry as compared with heavy industry throughout the entire period of completion of the building of socialism and gradual transition from socialism to communism.

If views of this kind were to become widespread, it would cause great harm to the entire cause of communist construction. It would lead to complete disorientation of our cadres on basic questions of the party’s economic policy. In practice it would mean that development of our heavy industry, which is the backbone of the socialist economy, would take a descending line, leading to decline in all branches of the national economy, not to a rise but a drop in the working people’s living standards, to undermining the economic power of the Soviet land and its defense capacity.

The rightist restorationists Bukharin and the Right Opposition] in their day, pressed the party along this path, as we know. But the party rejected these formulae of surrender. Guided by the Marxist-Leninist economic theory, the party spurred the production of means of production, heavy industry, at forced pace, and on this basis ensured powerful development of the national economy, for heavy industry was, is and will be the granite foundation of all branches of the socialist economy, the cornerstone of the might of the Soviet country and of its people’s well-being …

The Soviet people’s entire great creative activity is going on in an international situation which obligates Soviet people to display great vigilance. The forces of imperialist reaction, armed to the teeth and arming even more, are nurturing plans for another world war. In this situation a consistent and resolute struggle for world peace and every possible strengthening of the might of the Soviet country and its defense capacity are the first, sacred, patriotic and international duty of the Soviet people.

A major prerequisite for successful solution of these tasks is the struggle for the purity of Marxist-Leninist theory, since any wavering in matters of theory, particularly revisions of the basic theses of Marxist-Leninist economics, can harm our practical work. Marxist-Leninist theory is a powerful projector which illumines for us the path to creating a new society and provides clear guidance in the work and certainty in the victory of our cause.

Under the great banner of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin the Soviet people have built socialist society. Under this all conquering banner our people, guided by the party of Communists, are proceeding confidently toward their sacred goal -communism.

Source: Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. VI, No. 52 (Feb. 9, 1955), 4, 6


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