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Certainly, one wonders if this was just another example of the "new" Soviet regime using leftovers from the time of the Czar. Hammer's uncle Alexander Gomberg had held a Ford agency prior to the Revolution in Southern Russia and facilitated his nephew's meetings with Henry Ford to renew the business under the new Soviet regime (Hammer 1987, 167). There was a new regime and new faces on both sides of the trading table, but the old networks were in use. However, there were now differences, developments that would become a feature of U.S.-Soviet trade throughout the Cold War. In December, 1921, the first shipment of U.S. grain made its way to Russia to Leningrad in barter exchange for Russian furs, hides and caviar (ibid, 164). Anyone old enough to remember the Cold War will remember the very common grain deliveries to Soviet Union in exchange for goods. It seems as those Hammer set this very common paradigm of U.S.-Soviet trade that was to last for almost seven decades.
One issue that appears to have not changed much from the time of the Czars was the strategy of the new Soviet regime to combat and defeat economic backwardness. Gerschenkron in his famous 1962 essay postulated that "economically backward" regimes such as Russia historically have closed the gap with more developed economies by concentrating their scarce resources in high technology, in particular large scale industry. With a backward financial system, the government functions as the bank (Gerschenkron 1962, 21-30). This did not just happen in nineteenth century Russia under the tutelage of Count Witte, but also in Soviet Russia (ibid, 8). As documented in Hammer's autobiography earlier, the Soviet regime funded the Gorky Ford factory (Hammer 1987, 236). This gave the Soviet Union what Gerschenkron would called an "economic spurt" out of its backwardness. Gerschenkron's approach has of course not been without criticism and historians such as Clive Trebilock feels that the approach is simplistic and is especially limited to Russia (Trebilock 1996, 48-49). Trebilock also fulminates against the approach of Theodore von Laue due to the lack of continuity of such historical Witte and Stalin. Trebilock does have a point. As he points out Witte could not travel into the future thirty years and foresee the Gosplans of Joseph Stalin (ibid, 66). However, von Laue has a good point when makes the point that culture is as important as economics in the formulation of a nation. Certainly, Russia has had its various times of Perestroika and Glasnost from the times of leaders such Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Alexander II and Mikhail Gorbachev. As he puts it succinctly, the crux of the problem for Russia was "How to infuse the creativity of Western urban-industrial civilization, evolved under highly favorable geographic and historical circumstances, into habits and institutions shaped by relentless adversity (Laue 1997, 3)."
As influential as American business was, we must remember the other participant in creating the "degenerated worker's state" (in reality, state capitalism) and who later became a critic of that system when Stalin was on top of Soviet heap, comrade Leon Trotsky. In Revolution Betrayed, originally published in 1937, Trotsky lays out his criticism of the nightmare that Russia had descended into. Ironically enough, it seems that all of the principals we have mentioned above, Lenin, Hammer, Stalin and Trotsky himself seemed to have issues with the "kulaks," the bone in the throat of all of those interested in throwing down economic regimentation in Russia. These individual, rugged entrepreneurs just could not seem to get with it and fall in line with the five-year plans and would later get it from the heavy hand of Joseph Stalin when he starved six million of them to death.
The muzhik was not any more pliable under "military" or "war" communism than he or she was under the iron fist of Stalin, even with less iron in the glove. Trotsky notes indignantly in Revolution Betrayed that the muzhik buried his private property to protect it from confiscation, that he was reticent to take the worthless, colored Monopoly money in exchange for the product of the sweat of his brow (Trotsky 2004, 18). How impertinent for these peasant farmers to choose to feed their families and neighbors first, when the Chekha came through with rifle, bayonet and beautiful, multicolored, worthless paper that they so kindly offered in exchange since their comrades in Germany could not join in and supply the revolution with what it needed. Trotsky concluded that "Lenin explained the necessity of restoring the market…The play of supply and demand remains for a long period a necessary material basis and indispensable corrective (ibid, 19)." In other words, state capitalism in everything but name. The dirty word "market" says it all. They had to deal with the foreign capitalists.
Without going too far into the ideological compost of the kulak's farm, Trotsky hit the nail on the head. They had to inject the market back into the market and give the countryside peasant that had so much an ally in the early part of the revolution to continue his wedding to the urban proletariat. What is so disturbing again about Trotsky's formulation here is the contempt and fear of the kulak. Indeed, members in the Left Opposition were thrown into prison or banished to Siberia for their "panic" before "the specter of the kulak (ibid, 26)." The worst crime of the kulak was that "Trotskyist" policy of accommodating the peasant farmer tarnished comrade Leon's doctrinaire image (ibid, 28). Had he not later been exiled and vilified by Stalin, one wonders how accommodating the red warlord would have been to the Ukrainian upstarts. In Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky only criticized the speed of the collectivization (ibid, 30). To him, just as with Stalin, the kulaks had to be liquidated as a class. He only quibbled upon the details. Henry Ford and other happy American capitalist's private musings are not know, but from the balance sheet alone of the Gorky Ford truck factory, the proletariat of that factory was well fed and $30 million dollars in profits bought a lot of agreement between comrades Ford and Stalin.
To recap this brief discussion, it is very useless to rely upon the right-left paradigm in an attempt to explain the emergence of the NEP and its fruition into the Stalinist terror. The nuances of the history can only be grasped by throwing out the paradigm, starting from scratch, noting the state capitalist nature of the regime and individuals in Russia the United States that made it possible. The unexpected participation of the Park Avenue elites in this formative period of Russian history throws a particularly Orwellian twist to the history of not just the former Soviet Union and the present Russian Federation, but upon the history of the United States itself. After all, if non-state actors such as Henry Ford could do such a thing in Russia, in Germany, what were their intentions for the United States of that time and for the future? Certainly, life is a balance sheet for the corporate elite. The question is what is the value of the merchandise in America and will it be liquidated in the same way it was in Russia? Given the treatment of the Soviet merchandise, this author has serious doubts about the value of the American brands.
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