Primitive socialist accumulation

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Primitive socialist accumulation (sometimes socialist accumulation) was a concept put forth in the early Soviet Union during the period of the New Economic Policy. It was developed as a counterpart to the process of the primitive accumulation of capital that took place during the early stages and development of capitalist economies. Because the Soviet economy was underdeveloped and largely agrarian in nature, the Soviet state would have to be the agent of primitive capital accumulation to rapidly develop the Soviet economy. The concept was proposed as a means to industrialize the Russian economy of the era through state capitalism, because the Russian economy was too underdeveloped to implement socialism at the time.


The major proponent of the concept was Yevgeni Preobrazhensky, in his 1926 work The New Economics, based on his 1924 lecture in the Communist Academy, The Fundamental Law of Socialist Accumulation. The concept was proposed during the period of NEP. Its main principle is that the state sector of economy of the transitional period has to appropriate the peasant's surplus product to accumulate resources necessary for the growth of the industry. To this end, the major mechanisms were the foreign trade monopoly held the state and price control in favor of industry (in effect, "price scissors") [1][2]

This theory was criticized politically and associated with Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition, but in fact was put into practice by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s, as when Stalin said, in his speech to The Captains of Industry, that the USSR had to accomplish in a decade what England had taken centuries to do in terms of economic development in order to be prepared for an invasion from the West.

Beyond lectures and textbooks, however, this theory affected the working class as well. Real wages for both regular workers and managers plummeted, despite the growing wage differential. Piece work production relations were introduced wholesale. Also, Soviet penal policy tightened, causing a significant growth of inmates in the Gulag. It was not until after Stalin's death that a minimum wage was introduced, reductions to piece work production relations were made, and mass rehabilitations resulted in the dissolution of most of the gulag system.

See also


  1. Editor's biographical note to the 1962 translation of From N.E.P. to Socialism
  2. Publisher's introduction to the 1962 translation of From N.E.P. to Socialism