June 1, 1990

The Political Economy of Utopia

Communism in Soviet Russia, 1918-1921
  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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It has become a copybook maxim to assert that the policy of "War Communism" was imposed on the Bolsheviks by the Civil War and the foreign intervention. This is completely untrue, if only for the reason that the first decrees on introducing the "socialist ideal" exactly "according to Marx" in Soviet Russia were issued long before the beginning of the Civil War (the decrees of Jan. 26 and Feb. 14, 1918, on the nationalization of the merchant fleet and of all banks), while the last decree on the socialization of all small handicraftsmen and artisans was issued on Nov. 29, 1920, i.e., after the end of the Civil War in European Russia. Of course, the conditions of the Civil Wan and the intervention left an imprint. But the main thing was something else--the immediate implementation of theory in strict accordance with Marx (from "Critique of the Gotha Program") and Engles (from "Anti-During").

Citation: “The Political Economy of Utopia: Communism in Soviet Russia, 1918-1921,”Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, 1, no. 2 (June 1990): 91-138.