Late Soviet Evaluations of Baran, Sweezy and Bettelheim

The western economists, briefly analysed here by Soviet economists in the Brezhnev period, have been very influential in India amongst progressive opinion which considers them to be Marxist and even Marxist Leninist. With this background the views presented here are of interest even though the Soviet economists themselves were functioning within a generalised system of commodity production.


Baran, Paul (1910 – 64) was an American bourgeois economist. He was born in Ukraine, emigrated and studied in Berlin and Paris. Lived in the USA since 1939 and continued his studies at the Harvard University. After the Second World War 1939-1945 he worked at the office of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Since 1949 he was a professor at Stanford University. He has authored works on the political economy of developing countries and contemporary imperialism, in which he critically examines contemporary capitalism from a liberal bourgeois standpoint using certain Marxist views. His best known work – “The Political Economy of Growth”, (1957), has been translated into many languages. For an analysis of the process of economic growth, Baran uses the categories of potential and real economic surplus. The former, according to Baran, consists of surplus value and excess value created in the non-capitalist sector of a given country. Real economic surplus is that part of the potential economic surplus that remains after parasitic consumption of the ruling classes, useless for the development of society expenditure and transfer of funds abroad, etc. Baran seeks to give an analysis of the processes of formation and use of real economic surplus in developing countries. In 1966 he published his book “Monopoly Capital” (“Monopoly Capital”), co-authored with P. Sweezy. On a large factual material, the authors show the parasitism and decay of the monopolistic US economy in the 20th century. On a number of theoretical issues, in particular in the definition of economic features of imperialism, Baran opposes the Marxist-Leninist theory of imperialism, which is also evidenced by the article ‘Notes on the theory of imperialism” (in collection “Problems of economic dynamics and planning”, 1964), written by him in collaboration with Sweezy. Development. Baran considered the growth of national revolutionary movements as the main path of transition of human societies towards socialism, thereby underestimating the revolutionary role of the proletariat of capitalist countries.

Yu. A. Vasil”chuk, Moscow.
(Ekonomicheskaya Entsiklopedia, Politicheskaya Economia, ed. A.M. Rumantsev, Volume 1, 1972, p. 135.)


Sweezy Paul Marlor (b. 1919) an American economist and journalist. In 1934 graduated from Harvard University in which had a teaching position till 1942 in the economics department. Founder and publisher of the journal Monthly Review (from 1949) where he published articles on burning political-economic historic-economic problems. In a number of works he refers to important postulates of the economic theory of Karl Marx, as a consequence he came to be known in the bourgeois circles as a proponent of Marxism. However, Sweezy’s views were formed under the very strong influence of bourgeois ideology and essentially deviate from Marxism (eg. on questions of the labour theory of value, surplus value and accumulation of capital). While characterising modern Capitalism, Sweezy promotes revisionist ideas of transformation of the bourgeois society, in which supposedly shifts of a socialist nature take place. As a supporter of the theory of “economic stagnation”, Sweezy explains the drop in the pace of development of the American economy due to the fact that the United States have achieved economic “maturity”, after which a period of “natural” stagnation has set in. Sweezy considers an insufficient increase in the population to be one of the reasons for this stagnation leading to a shortage of labour, increase in the level of wages, and consequently, to a reduction in the profits of the capitalists, a decrease in accumulation and lessened incentive to invest. Sweezy comes to the conclusion that the modern capitalist economy cannot successfully develop and overcome the growing economic contradictions without the active intervention of the state in the economic life and the introduction of a system planning.

Works: Socialism, New York, 1949; Cuba: Anatomy of a Revolution, NY, 1961; The Theory of Capitalist Development, Principles of Marxian Political Economy, NY, 1968; Present as History, 2nd Edition, NY, 1970.

V.G. Sarychev, Leningrad.
(Ekonomicheskaya Entsiklopedia, Politicheskaya Economia, ed. A.M. Rumantsev, Volume 4, 1980, p. 86.)


Bettelheim Charles (b. 20.11.1914) was a French bourgeois economist specialising in the field of economic planning. He was a doctor and professor of economics (1939). He graduated from the University of Paris in 1931. He was the director of the Centre for sociological research and international studies at the ministry of labour during 1944-48. In the period 1945-50 he was a professor at the National School of Economics and Social Organisation and from 1948-52 he worked at the National School of Administration. Bettelheim headed the UNO mission for technical assistance to India (1945-56). Bettelheim was director of the research journal “Problèmes de planification” and the Centre for the Study of Socialist planning. The problems of economic planning are considered by him in general theoretical and specific economic aspects, in close connection with the analysis of the sectoral structure of the national economy, production, processes of distribution, use of the gross domestic product and national income, the role of technical progress, processes of the monetary system, employment, labour productivity, wages, external trade and outflow of capital. However, the constraints of his bourgeois positions prevents Bettelheim from giving scientific solutions for problems of planning.

Works: L’économie soviétique, P., 1950; Une ville française moyennc Auxerre en 1950, P., 1950; Aspects de l’économie tchecoslovaque, «Cahiers internationaux», 1950, fevr. mars; Théories contemporaines de l’emploi, P., 1953; Long-term planning problems, ( L.,) 1956; Foreign trade and planning for economic development, (L.,) 1956; Studies in the theory of planning, Bombay, 1961; Some basic planning problems, Bombay, 1961; Planification et croissance accelerée, P., 1964; La construction du socialisme en Chine, P., 1965 (coaBтop); Les cadres socio-économiques et l’organisation de la planification sociale, P., 1965; Le problémes théoriques et pratiques de la planification, 3 èd., P., 1966; in Russian translation: The Economy of France 1919-1952, M, 1953; The Economy of France after the Second World War, M, 1956; Independent India, M, 1964.

V.S.Afanas”ev, Moscow.
(Ekonomicheskaya Entsiklopedia, Politicheskaya Economia, ed. A.M. Rumantsev, Volume 1, 1972, pp. 155-6.)

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