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Evgeny Preobrazhensky

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Eugenio Preobrazhenski
1886-1937

"The New Economy. Theory and Practice. 1922-1928"

Preobrazhensky shows that in the Soviet society there is a struggle between two contradictory laws: the law of value and "the law of primitive socialist accumulation". In effect, this means denying a single controller of the economy, and instead placing the burden upon the struggle of these two opposite tendencies. One is the tendency towards restoration of the capitalism economy and social relations; the other is the tendency towards socialism.

The law of value means that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity, and quality, of labor necessary for its production. The law of primitive socialist accumulation means that in a society that is economically relatively backward, accumulation of value for accelerated industrial development takes place due to the unequal exchange between the industrial sector (mostly owned by the state) and the agricultural sector (mostly in private hands of the peasants).

In the process of “primitive socialist accumulation”, both the peasants and the city workers get hurt. The state forces the peasants to pay more for industrial articles than they would paid for them, if they bought them on the world market. The state also pays less to the city workers than is the real cost of their labor power, for the sake of transferring the value for buying the machines, building factories, etc.

The Soviet society is involved in a whole series of contradictions.

A. There is a contradiction between the need for an unequal exchange between the town and the country, and the need to develop agriculture in order to erase the differences between the town and the country.

B. There is a contradiction between paying to the workers less than is the real cost of their labor power, and the need to increase the wages in order to improve the cultural level of the workers.

C. There is a contradiction between isolating the Soviet society from the rest of the world, and the need to integrate into the world economy with the goal of a rapid industrial development.

Preobrazhensky sees a solution to these contradictions in a world socialist revolution. This was one of the reasons which led Preobrazhensky into the camp of the Left (Trotskyist) Opposition in the USSR, and later into the underground organization of I.N. Smirnov, one of the former leaders of the Left Opposition.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the contradiction between the law of value and the need for a planned socialist development has continued. One example of this is the state control over the prices of bread, sugar, buckwheat, and other staples. Another example is the state control over education, medicine, the prices for gas, electricity, etc.

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