ICSID-CSDSI Research Seminar
HSE International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development (ICSID) and NES Center for the Study of Diversity and Social Interactions held another session of their joint Research Seminar on Diversity and Development on October 10, 2017. The event was held jointly with the seminar “Political Economy” and Economic Development and Growth Research Group.
Stephen G. Wheatcroft, Professor at the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne, presented his paper "The importance of the grain problem in the Russian Revolution and for the next 40 years of Soviet Economic".
Abstract: This paper considers the importance of the grain problem in the Russian Revolution, and the developmental policies that emerged out of the Revolution. It argues that a major and often neglected aspect of the Revolution was the economic catastrophe caused by the grain transportation problem that preceded and accompanied the Revolution, and very much fashioned it. The threat of the recurrence of such grain problems with accompanying economic catastrophe remained a major concern for the first 40 years of the Revolution. The economic catastrophe arose in 1917 and dominated life in the Northern cities of Russia as a result of certain specifics of Russian historical development whereby the capitals and the major industrial cities were located in a food deficit region some considerable distance from the major food producing regions. Although the Russian economy of the time was in general very under-developed, in certain specifics regarding the transport system it could be claimed that the economy was over-developed, ie. that it lacked the infrastructure and resources needed to support the level of development that was already taking place. This situation had not arisen as a result of the free interplay of economic factors on a free market. It had been built by the power of state force on a dependent and subjugated population. The paper begins with a brief analysis of how the causes of the Russian Revolution have been explained and the importance given to food supply factors in this process. It then looks at the nature of the main supply problem of the time and why it was moving towards catastrophe in 1917.It then considers how the Soviet government handled the catastrophe, before concluding with a brief discussion of what the October Revolution has to teach other economies.