The USSR That Could Have been – Lenin’s New Economic Policy
Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ) was not the first to introduce Perestroika – the economic liberalization of the communist system along capitalistic lines.
During the Russian civil war (1918-1922) the Bolsheviks implemented what they called “War Communism” (1917-1921), the militarization of the economy. Between 1916 and 1920, industrial output plunged by more than four fifths. Grain harvests in both 1920 and 1921 disastrously dwindled, leading to widespread famine, claiming five million lives. A series of rebellions of sailors broke out, most famously in the Krohnstadt naval base.
To counter the party’s loosening grip on power, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP). Trade was liberalized, as were industrial and agricultural production. Peasants were allowed to sell surplus produce on the open market and taxes were made proportional to net output.
In stark departure from communist ideology, farmers could lease land and hire laborers. The state embarked on an ambitious privatization program of small and medium-size enterprises,...