New economic policy

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The New Economic Policy (abbreviation NEP ; Russian НЭП - Новая экономическая политика , NEP - Novaja ekonomitscheskaja politika ) was an economic policy concept in the Soviet Union , which Lenin and Trotsky implemented in 1921 against considerable opposition in their own party. Its main characteristic was a decentralization and liberalization in agriculture, trade and industry, which partly also allowed the economy to use market-based methods. The NEP remained real policy until 1928 and led to an improvement in supply and relative social freedoms.

Development of the New Economic Policy (NEP)

Silver ruble or "half ruble ", 1924

The Russian civil war and the spontaneous nationalization of banks and factories as well as state control of foreign trade had plunged the economy into a serious crisis. With the Peace of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, the Soviet Union lost several million hectares of fertile farmland. Industrial production in 1920 was only an eighth of the level of 1913, the production and distribution of food no longer worked, famine threatened in the cities and peasant revolts in the countryside.

At the end of February 1921, sailors from the Russian Navy began the Kronstadt sailors' uprising ; Among other things, they called for a democratization of Soviet Russia and less influence of the Communist Party of Russia (KPR) on political decision-making processes.

The NEP was proclaimed by Lenin in March 1921 at the Xth Party Congress of the KPR . It replaced the economic policy of war communism , in which only "working people" were entitled to food allocation, production was dictated according to need and the farmers' food production was confiscated. The NEP brought about a profound change in the political climate. The world war and the civil war that followed devastated Russia. After the military victory, the aim was to improve the supply situation, which had been permanently impaired by the civil war. After the revolution, expectations were high. First of all, survival after this time had to be organized. Lenin's commandment “learn to act” required a transition period. Lenin himself led to the XI. 1922 party congress from:

“The thing is that the responsible communist [...] does not know how to trade because he is not a specialist, because he has not learned that and does not want to learn and does not understand that he has to start with the ABC. "

The NEP legalized profit-oriented production, private property in the production of consumer goods and the acquisition of wealth and also incorporated the farmers into the economic system through a “tax in kind”. For the first time the problem of introducing elements of the market economy into a planned economy arose. To his critics, Lenin defended his economic policy turn away from war communism by stating that the socialist state still had control over the “ heights of command of the economy ”. H. control of key industries would remain.

As a result of the NEP, the party organization and its apparatchiks moved forward and the influence of ideologues and agitators waned. The economic success of the NEP strengthened the central power of the party apparatus.

The introduction of the NEP led to the fact that for the first time since the October Revolution a "bourgeois" class of traders and merchants emerged who improved the allocation of resources by trading in goods and made profits in the process. Many of these so-called Nep men ( nèpman ) demonstrated their new wealth and caused discomfort in the party and society. Nonetheless, from a macroeconomic perspective, their work was essential for improving the allocation of resources in the country.

However, the period of the NEP ended with a resolution at the 15th party congress (December 2-19, 1927).


Under state supervision, attempts were made to increase their yields by encouraging the farmers to take initiative and make profit. The peasants were allowed to sell the products that remained to them in excess of the delivery target in free trade at free market prices. Lenin wanted to allow self-sufficiency and a certain development of market structures for a transitional period in order to nationalize agriculture again later. Lenin was of the opinion that planned agriculture was not possible,

"If there is not a first-class large-scale mechanical industry with a network of electrical lines alongside these farmers, an industry that is capable of both its technical performance and its organizational 'superstructures' and accompanying phenomena, the small farmers with larger quantities of better products are faster and cheaper than to supply earlier. On a world scale, this 'if' has already been realized, this condition is already given, but a single country, and one of the most backward capitalist countries at that, which has made the attempt to realize the new connection between industry and agriculture immediately and immediately, to put it into practice, to get it going in practice, has not been able to accomplish this task by 'assault' and must now accomplish it through a series of slow, gradual, cautious 'siege operations'. "

- Lenin : On the importance of gold now and after the complete victory of socialism , 1921

In the opinion of Nikolai Bukharin and his political supporters (later, during the time of the so-called "Great Rupture", especially by Stalinist politicians called "rights"), the farmers should be given permanent concessions, prices and production independently shape. The path to socialism was secured as long as the party kept the general instruments of power firmly in hand. It would be enough if the profits were skimmed off through taxes to build up industry.

Stalin , on the other hand, took the view that faster industrialization would only be possible if the modernization of agriculture was also considerably accelerated. But this would only be possible if agriculture were collectivized and mechanized. The NEP could therefore only serve to build socialism for a transitional period. The relaxations introduced remained in force until 1927. According to a resolution of the 15th party congress, a centralized planned economy was introduced under Stalin from 1928 onwards, thus resolving the fight “against the capitalist elements in the village” . Forced collectivization began in the Soviet Union .


At the 4th Comintern Congress in November 1922, Lenin formulated:

“We know that without heavy industry, without its restoration, we cannot build an industry; without this we are lost as an independent country. We know that. Russia's salvation lies not only in a good harvest by the farmers - that is not enough - and not only in the good condition of the light industry that supplies the peasantry with everyday objects - that is also too little - we still need heavy industry […]. "

In order to build up the industry, however, financial resources were required, which could only be obtained from the income of agriculture .

Bukharin's position on the NEP

Nikolai Bukharin

In 1921 Nikolai Bukharin still advocated the economic form of war communism . He thought that the NEP was only necessary to make concessions to the starving farmers. In 1925 his view changed. In his book The Path to Socialism, he described the NEP as a departure from the direct path to communism - that is, as a necessary detour via an “unorthodox” policy. He formulated on the XVI. Party Congress of the CPSU:

“I repeat, I insist, the necessity of war politics inevitably led to the fall of production in the economic sphere, but now that the political goal has been reached, our power is consolidated and the dictatorship of the proletariat established - the hegemony of the proletariat is a certain fact, and now there is only a need to increase productivity in order to build the dictatorship of the proletariat. "

After “socialism” has been created and secured - so he demanded - productivity must be promoted. The farmers should be able to set prices and production independently. The redistribution for building up the industry could be done through taxes. In 1925, Bukharin formulated - as a program of Soviet society - "Enrich yourselves!", Which was meant not only materially but primarily culturally and included a further dismantling of the command economy. Stalin called this direction the “right-wing opposition” and, in order to achieve the complete victory of socialism in the Soviet Union , relied on the “ class struggle in the village” within the framework of the “ collectivization of agriculture”.

Bukharin's economic model had a late renaissance at the time of the perestroika initiated by Gorbachev (1986–1990). It was considered a historical alternative.

Historical comparisons

NÖSPL in the GDR

The DDR experimented in the 1960s with the " New Economic System of Planning and Control " (NÖSPL) briefly in one direction, ran out the market economy to the partial creation of conditions. With reference to the new economic policy of the young Soviet Union, the SED tried to legitimize this state reform program. Among other things, it stipulated that associations of state-owned enterprises (VVBs) were allowed partial autonomy within the framework of the planned economy and were obliged to maximize profits. It was introduced in 1963 under Walter Ulbricht and lasted until 1967. From 1968, the reform efforts were modified and were now called the Economic System of Socialism (ÖSS). With the beginning of the Honecker era , a new economic policy course was taken and the ÖSS stopped in 1971.

Socialist market economy

In contrast to the NÖSPL, the reforms under Deng Xiaoping in China affected the entire national economy since the late 1970s and ultimately led to the abandonment of basic principles of a planned economy and the transition to a socialist market economy .

The same was true for the reforms under Gorbachev, which are summarized under the term perestroika .

Historical evaluation

The New Economic Policy is understood by historians as a "tactical retreat" of Lenin to stop the downright disintegration of economy and society. In both industry and agriculture, market forces - at least at the local level - have again been given a wide scope. The NEP measures, which were highly controversial in the party, led to a noticeable improvement in the supply situation and were therefore a decisive factor in the consolidation of the communists' political power.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Manfred Hildermeier : The New Economic Policy (1921-1928). CHBeck Verlag, September 16, 2013, p. 272 , accessed on September 23, 2014 (edition: 4th, updated and expanded edition).
  2. ^ Dietrich Beyrau : Petrograd, October 25, 1917. The Russian Revolution and the Rise of Communism. 1st edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-423-30602-5 , pp. 110 .
  3. ^ Robert Service : Comrades! A History of World Communism. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 2007, ISBN 978-0-674-02530-1 , pp. 102f.
  4. ^ Dietrich Beyrau : Petrograd, October 25, 1917. The Russian Revolution and the Rise of Communism. 1st edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-423-30602-5 , pp. 108 .
  5. Peter Jay: The pursuit of wealth. The economic history of man. Propylaen Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-549-07124-8 , p. 335