The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Voznesensky, Nikolai Alekseevich (1903–1950)

  • M. C. Kaser
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-349-95189-5_1280

Abstract

Voznesensky (born the son of a timber dealer in Teploe, Russia, on 18 November 1903; executed on 30 September 1950) joined the Bolshevik Party in 1919 and studied political economy at the Institute of Red Professors, Moscow, where he stayed on as lecturer. His publications – fewer than 30, his culminating manuscript being destroyed by the police – have been analysed by Harrison (1985) and Sutela (1984). In a concept later to be termed ‘unbalanced growth’ by A. O. Hirschman, he saw that the national plan ‘must localize bottlenecks, not for adapting them, but for doing away with them’. Ranging himself against those who argued that comprehensive planning invalidated money calculations, he had by 1935 embraced the position – which was to figure in Stalin’s indictment of him in 1949 – that money would have a distributive function even when all means of production had been nationalized. His association with the Leningrad circle which eventually led to his execution also began in 1935, for A.A. Zhdanov, having replaced the assassinated S.M. Kirov as Leningrad Party Secretary, invited Voznesensky to lead that city’s plan organization under an Executive Committee headed by A.N. Kosygin.

Voznesensky (born the son of a timber dealer in Teploe, Russia, on 18 November 1903; executed on 30 September 1950) joined the Bolshevik Party in 1919 and studied political economy at the Institute of Red Professors, Moscow, where he stayed on as lecturer. His publications – fewer than 30, his culminating manuscript being destroyed by the police – have been analysed by Harrison (1985) and Sutela (1984). In a concept later to be termed ‘unbalanced growth’ by A. O. Hirschman, he saw that the national plan ‘must localize bottlenecks, not for adapting them, but for doing away with them’. Ranging himself against those who argued that comprehensive planning invalidated money calculations, he had by 1935 embraced the position – which was to figure in Stalin’s indictment of him in 1949 – that money would have a distributive function even when all means of production had been nationalized. His association with the Leningrad circle which eventually led to his execution also began in 1935, for A.A. Zhdanov, having replaced the assassinated S.M. Kirov as Leningrad Party Secretary, invited Voznesensky to lead that city’s plan organization under an Executive Committee headed by A.N. Kosygin.

Voznesensky was promoted to the chairmanship of the USSR State Planning Committee in January 1938 and brought order into the chaos resulting from the 1937 Great Purge (Voznesensky 1938, 1940; Harrison 1985), but so inadequate were his plans for a war economy both before and after the German attack of June 1941 that Zhdanov’s rivals, G.M. Malenkov and L.P. Beria (Ra’anan 1983) ran the newly created State Defence Committee, from which Voznesensky was excluded until February 1942. He regained chairmanship of the Planning Committee in December 1942, and achieved in 1943 a peak of armaments production and economic expansion in the unoccupied territory. He allowed market forces to operate in the household sector, alongside rations at controlled prices, absorbing some of the inflation in purchasing power through highly taxed off-ration prices in state shops, and intended to liquidate the inflationary overhang generated by free sales by farmers in a monetary reform as soon as the war ended (though famine caused postponement and retail price restructuring until December 1947).

At the height of Voznesensky’s economic leadership (he was elected Academician in 1943) an unsigned editorial, 1943, condemned the ‘voluntarism’ which disregarded the ‘objectivelydetermined process of development’ and confirmed, as had been adumbrated in 1941 (Kaser 1965), that a law of value operated under socialism. His postwar Reconstruction Plan evoked ‘economic levers in the organization of production and distribution, such as price, money, credit, profit and incentives’ (Selected Works, 1979, p. 465): he brought in Kosygin as Minister of Finance to oversee the cut in subsidies required by his reform of wholesale prices; the measures which took effect on 1 January 1949 would have been a major contribution to rational economic management (Kaser 1950).

Political realignments led to Voznesensky’s dismissal within weeks of his reform and his eventual execution without trial; the life of the dismissed Kosygin, in Khrushchev’s later words, ‘hung by a thread’. Stalin reversed the reform of both retail and wholesale prices and soon (Stalin 1952) limited the role of ‘commodity relations’ to the interface of the socialist sector with non-state entities (such as collective farmers and foreigners), vilifying Voznesensky’s analysis of the war economy (Voznesensky 1948) for the very ‘voluntarism’ that the author rejected. The death or disgrace of those in the Leningrad circle was a triumph, albeit short-lived, for Beria and Malenkov in a political power struggle, but the open disputations were on economic issues: on one, to stop dismantling capital in the Soviet Zone of Germany in favour of current deliveries, Voznesensky had been right; in the others – where E.S. Varga argued that east Europe should be allowed to be ‘state capitalist’ with market relations with the West and that Keynesian policies had halted the ‘general crisis of capitalism’ – he had been wrong.

Selected Works

  • 1938. K itogam sotsialisticheskogo vosproizvodstva vo vtoroi piatiletke (On the results of socialist reproduction in the second Five-year Plan). Bol’shevik No. 2. In Selected Works, 346–362.

  • 1940. Tri stalinskie piatiletki stroitel’stva sotsializma (Three Stalinist Five-year Plans for building socialism). Bol’shevik No. 1. Not reproduced in Selected Works.

  • 1948. The war economy of the USSR in the period of the Patriotic War. Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press and the American Association of Learned Societies. Translation of Voennaia ekonomika SSSR v period Otechestvennoi voiny, Moscow: Gospolitizdat. In Selected Works, 484–604.

  • 1979. Izbrannye proizvedeniia 1931–1947 (Selected Works 1931–1947). Moscow: Izdatel’stvo politicheskoy literatury.

Bibliography

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. C. Kaser
    • 1
  1. 1.