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Khrushchev and Soviet Socialism

To some extent it can be said that the ultimate failure of Khrushchev’s efforts to put in place Marx’s project for socialism was rooted in the success of that very policy. Khrushchev placed tremendous emphasis on advancing the Soviet Union’s agriculture, and in doing so, put the Soviet population in a frame of mind in which it could think of other things. It was Khrushchev himself who, in 1959, said, “We are getting richer, and when a person has more to eat he gets more democratic.”

Khrushchev and Soviet Socialism

But to say that Soviet socialism failed because it made itself unnecessary would be to provide only a partial answer to the complex question of why the project for socialism failed. The fact of the matter is that while in some ways Khrushchev’s efforts were too successful, in even more fundamental ways his reforms were too superficial to have a lasting impact on the Soviet state.

A question of priorities

In the wake of Joseph Stalin, Khrushchev was determined to put in place the kind of investment in Soviet agriculture that had been needed for years, if not decades. Khrushchev’s chief governmental rival, Premier Malenkov, was more interested in satisfying the public’s demand for consumer goods. “It was not possible to satisfy both these aims unless expenditure on defense and on investment in heavy industry were substantially reduced.”

Forced to chose between these priorities, it was decided that cutting back on defense and on heavy industry would not be practical. Thus, the Soviet leadership was forced to choose between Khrushchev’s priority of agricultural investment and Malenkov’s alternative of increased investment in the production in consumer goods. In February 1955 the leadership came down on the side of Khrushchev, deciding to further agricultural investment. In the face of this decision, Malenkov was forced to resign.

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