The Soviet genius who tried to beat capitalism at its own game

 作者:房歉     |      日期:2018-01-06 04:01:00
Howard Sochurek/The Life Picture Collection/Getty By Daniel Cossins IN THE summer of 1959, Sokolniki Park in Moscow played host to a glitzy exhibition showcasing the shiniest of American capitalism. It was supposed to be part of a cultural exchange programme. But on the opening day, the only things being swapped were thinly veiled barbs. As Vice-President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev shuffled past gleaming cars and model kitchens featuring dishwashers and TV dinners, they couldn’t help themselves. Nixon bragged about higher standards of living in the US. Khrushchev pointed out that the average American couldn’t afford any of this stuff and, besides, the average Soviet citizen would have it all before long. Then he made a promise: “When we catch you up, we will wave to you as we pass you by.” These days, we associate the Soviet era with bleak images of scarcity and repression: empty shelves, endless bread lines and remote Siberian labour camps. But in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a genuine conviction in the USSR that communism would bring prosperity and plenty. In 1957, according to official figures, the USSR’s gross domestic product was growing faster than the GDP of almost every other nation on the planet, including the US. Soviet citizens began to move into new apartments with private bathrooms. Some were even splashing out on fridges, radios and televisions. And yet even as Khrushchev was making bold promises, Soviet managers knew that these gains in living standards and growth rates disguised the fact that productivity was low and stagnant,