“In Western countries, faced with major crises, the experience of Soviet planning aroused great interest”

Tribune. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the experience of “real socialism” has become a scarecrow agitated to delegitimize any state intervention in the economy. Yet for decades it was instead the “successes” of socialist planning that were the focus of attention. The USSR embodied a model of “learned state”, capable of regulating its economy from a central body, responsible for developing and adjusting five-year plans according to the objectives set by the politician. In Western countries, facing major crises, the experience of Soviet planning aroused great interest across the political spectrum.

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The enthusiasm for the Plan dates back to the 1930s. The Soviet Union then displayed a rational mastery of economic dynamics, escaping the shocks of capitalism. The reality was of course more tragic. Many economists, such as Nikolai Kondratiev, will be victims of the Stalinist purges; and the accelerated industrialization of the country will come at the cost of violent repressions affecting above all the impoverished layers of the new socialist modernity, in particular the peasant world.

The interest of the West was, however, revived by the reforms of the planned economy which, initiated in the East in the 1950s, aimed to democratize the ultra-centralized system inherited from Stalinism and to introduce “market mechanisms” into it. “. So the thesis of a capitalist and socialist “convergence of systems” flourished, according to which both would evolve towards the same type of society. The revival of the Soviet mathematical economy, after its Stalinist disgrace, in fact made possible a rapprochement in the ways of thinking about economic science on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Witness the 1975 Nobel Prize in Economics, awarded jointly to Leonid V. Kantorovich and Tjalling C. Koopmans for their contribution to the field of planning.

Networks of expertise

It was in this context, punctuated by the conflicts of the Cold War, that vast networks of economic expertise were formed between East and West. A privileged dialogue was thus established between the Soviet Union and France, now also endowed with a planning system. This new state interventionism was the result of the “Keynesian” consensus which had prevailed in the immediate post-war period, on bases, however, fragile: it was quickly contested by numerous enterprises for the rehabilitation of economic liberalism, although Gaulle defined the plan as “An ardent obligation”. French planning economists therefore turned to the East, hoping to find solutions to the technical problems they faced. Their ambition was also to propose, with their “indicative” planning model, an alternative to Stalinist authoritarian management.

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