This term is used to describe and define the period roughly from mid-1918 until March 1921, when the Soviet government, under Lenin’s leadership, adopted a policy of requisitioning farm produce (the so-called prodrazvestka), sought to ban all private trade, nationalized almost all industrial establishments and tried to achieve central control over production and allocation of goods, partially replacing money (which was rapidly depreciating) by accounting in kind. The words ‘sought’ and ‘tried’ in the above sentence are essential, because real life at no time conformed fully to the government’s intentions. Thus Kritsman, in his pamphlet on ‘The Heroic period of the Russian revolution’, described the economic system then prevailing as ‘the most complete form of proletarian natural-anarchistic economy’, and also claimed that in world history there was never a time when so large a proportion of the people had engaged in trade (though it was illegal). Controls were confused and contradictory, reliable and efficient controllers extremely scarce, the official distribution network frequently broke down and various official bodies duplicated each other. Local soviets and party officials often acted independently, disregarding Moscow’s instructions. Lenin on many occasions deplored the tendency to issue orders that were in fact not carried out.
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