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Problems in Economics
ISSN: 0032-9436 (Print) (Online) Journal homepage:
Economic Cooperation among the Comecon
O. Bogomolov
To cite this article: O. Bogomolov (1965) Economic Cooperation among the Comecon Countries,
Problems in Economics, 7:9, 39-46
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Published online: 08 Dec 2014.
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Planovoe khoziaistvo, 1964, No. 4
economies of some of these countries were
drawn toward the Western European capitalist
states, which subordinated them to their own
interests. The revolutionary changes in the
people’s democracies were accompanied by a
reorientation of their foreign economic relations. The community of social and economic
systems, of political aims and the MarxistLeninist ideology, promoted the economic rapprochement of the countries that were building
socialism. Over 60% of the member-countries’
foreign trade is now transacted on the socialist
market, The total value of the trade turnover
between them has increased more than fourfold
over the past thirteen years and exceeds ten
billion rubles a year.
Naturally, the volume of mutual commodities
deliveries does not sufficiently reflect the
mounting cooperation among the socialist countries. Changes have occurred in the very essence of the economic relations that are developing among them.
We know that the initial stage in the cooperation was characterized by the exchange and delivery of goods in order to render economic
assistance and correct particular economic disproportions. Later the socialist countries
The creation in 1949 of the Council of Mutual
Economic Assistance [Comecon], a collective
body for economic cooperation among the socialist countries, marked an important stage in the
establishment of the world socialist system.
During the period of its activity, the economic
contacts between the member-countries have
become stronger and more firm and have risen
to a higher level.
Fifteen years is a short time, historically,
but it is long enough to enable us to make certain generalizations and to extract some useful
lessons from this experience. Summing up the
results in connection with the council’s fifteenth
anniversary, the member-countries are striving
to equip themselves for the solution of the next
tasks of the international socialist division of
1. The Most Important Results of the
Development of Economic Cooperation
Among the Comecon Countries
Before they started on the socialist path of
development, the European people’s democracies did not have strong economic relations
with the Soviet Union o r with each other. The
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gradually moved on from this none too stable
and systematic exchange to the establishment
of strong, long-term production relations based
on the international specialization of production.
Accordingly, coordination of long-term economic
plans is becoming an ever more important part
of the economic cooperation among the membercountries. Coordination of plans is a qualitatively new phenomenon in international economic
relations and is characteristic of the world system of socialism alone.
In coordinating their plans, the membercountries are guided by the collectively approved uFundamental Principles of the International Socialist Division of Labor,” which
provide a scientifically substantiated orientation
for the development of international economic
relations. Comecon has recently been strengthened organizationally, and measures have been
taken to increase its authority and effectiveness.
Regular meetings between the first secretaries of the communist and workers’ parties
and the heads of the member-country governments to coordinate economic policies and
solve urgent problems of cooperation have made
it possible to work out a clear and principled
course for extending economic relations and
improving the organizational forms of this cooperation. The annual conferences of party and
government leaders of the member -countries
testify to the interest of the Marxist-Leninist
parties in advancing and strengthening the
world socialist economy. They show that improvement of cooperation has become the most
important task in the policies of the fraternal
parties. The general course of the international
division of labor that they mapped out together
is in full accord with the spirit of the 1957
Declaration and the 1960 Statement. This
course signifies a development of the economy
of the socialist countries that will unite them
more closely, raise the international prestige
and influence of the socialist system, and speed
up its transformation into a decisive factor of
the modern era,
The system of planned economic cooperation
and division of labor being set up by the socialist countries has already become of vital im-
portance to them. And although far from all of
the advantages of the system have been disclosed, the most essential ones a r e known: the
economic relations between the socialist countries, increasingly subordinated to the planning
principle, actively promote socialist expanded
reproduction in each country and assist the
industrialization of the less economically developed socialist countries, raising them to the
level of the highly industrialized states.
Stone by stone, the foundation of the future
system for a rational division of labor within
the framework of the world socialist community
is being laid through the activity of Comecon
and cooperation between the planning bodies of
its member-countries. By no means will every
measure for increasing cooperation stand the
test of time. But it is also true that a great
many joint steps recently taken by the membercountries a r e of a positive nature and can be
regarded as having made a contribution to the
adjustment of the world socialist economy.
The construction of the trans-European
“Druzhba” [ Friendship] oil pipeline, designed
to supply Soviet oil to Poland, the GDR, Czechoslovakia and Hungary and to develop the oil
and chemical industries of these countries, can
be viewed as such a step. The pipeline is already in operation. A s their industry grows,
the member-countries will have an increasing
need for reliable sources of oil. This means
that the question of the construction of a second
pipeline is already relevant.
The present form of international industrial
cooperation within the framework of Comecon
is creating the prerequisites for regularly
supplying the people’s democracies in Europe
with the raw materials and semifinished
products they lack. This important and difficult
problem cannot be fully solved immediately.
Only the first steps have been made; we a r e
still groping for the right course to pursue in
the future. For example, the attempt to find
the best solution to the fuel and power problems
of the member-countries over the next few
years with the help of a combined interstate
balance is something that merits attention. The
first effort to draw up such a balance, though it
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w a s far from perfect, indicates that it has great
promise i n the future coordination of plans not
only for the fuel and power branches, but also
for other branches of the economy.
It is now clear that future cooperation in
solving the problem of raw materials will involve long-term agreements for the participation of interested member-countries in the construction of enterprises for the extraction of
raw materials in those countries with rich supplies. The socialist countries have already had
some experience in such cooperation. The
Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia have concluded
an agreement on the partial financing of the
mining of iron ore and the production of nonferrous metals in the USSR and corresponding
deliveries of these raw materials to Czechoslovakia. An agreement with Poland provides
for the joint construction of potassium chloride
mines in Belorussia. The Soviet Union, Hungary,
Bulgaria, the GDR, and Czechoslovakia have
joined their efforts to build the big Kingisepp
phosphorite mine. Czechoslovakia is financing
the development of coal, copper, and sulphur
deposits in Poland, potassium chloride deposits
in the GDR, and power station construction in
Rumania, The GDR is establishing similar cooperation with Poland and other socialist countries in order to obtain certain kinds of fuel and
raw materials. The cooperation of the membercountries in building economic projects promotes
the organization of production under optimum
economic conditions and, what is most important,
will meet the countries’ needs in raw materials
for a long time ahead.
The member-countries have made considerable progress in unifying their power systems.
The outlines of the future unified power system
for the socialist countries of Europe a r e already
visible. The GDR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and
Hungary have been made part of one power system by connecting transmission lines (with the
international control center in Prague), and now
the substation in Mukachevo has brought Rumania and the USSR (Western Ukraine) into the
system. Although the capitalist countries also
have associated power systems (Britain and
France; Austria, the FRG and Italy), the mem-
bers of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance a r e going much further. A s Lenin foresaw,
the electrification of several neighboring count r i e s according to a coordinated plan, a technical task long overdue, became possible on a
large scale only after socialism triumphed in
several states. Forty million kilowatt capacities,
which can be utilized much more efficiently
when in parallel operation, have already been
included in the member -countries’ associated
power sy.;tem (named “Mir” [Peace]). The
system makes it possible to reduce the cost of
production of electric power because bigger
power aggregates can be built, and it reduces
the reserve power capacities in the separate
countries. The economies now obtained from
the unification of the power systems are equal
to the cost of building a station with a capacity
of 600,000 kilowatts.
The formation of the socialist community has
also made possible a complex power development of the Danube, Europe’s biggest river. In
1964 Rumania and Yugoslavia will begin construction of a complex of power installations in
the vicinity of the Iron Gate, while Czechoslovakia and Hungary intend to build big hydropower stations on the section of the river where
the two countries have a common border.
The economic cooperation already engaged
in within the Comecon framework proves that
the socialist division of labor is actively assisted by such forms of international management as the agreement on the establishment of
a common fleet of 100,000 freight cars, which
is expected to make international traffic between
the member-countries more efficient; the united
system of telephone and television (“Intervision”
[ Intervidenie] ) communications; and the bank
for international cooperation. Czechoslovakia,
Poland, and Hungary are preparing to establish
an international production combine for the
rolling of ferrous metals. Several countries
intend to form a combine for producing radial
These forms of cooperation reflect quite profound economic tendencies and, most of all, the
mounting concentration and internationalization
of production. Monopoly capital has created in-
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ternational associations of producers to regulate
the production of certain items for the world
market, associations whose forms correspond
to the nature of monopoly capital. In accordance
with the peculiarities of their social system, the
socialist countries have found very different
organizational forms for direct cooperation
among the big national producers of the most
important products. This is essential for the
practical implementation, specialization and
more efficient use of production capacities, as
well as for speeding up the socialist countries’
progress in science and technology.
International specialization and cooperation
i n production, given special attention by Comecon over the past eight years, is one of the most
progressive trends in the socialist countries’
economic cooperation. Specialization now encompasses almost 1,200 kinds of machinebuilding products. Of that number, the 525
recommendations for specialization adopted in
1962-1963 were more carefully prepared than
those adopted previously. Moreover, there is
now specialization in about 800 kinds of products
of the chemical industry. Despite the great efforts being made toward specialization, the results achieved so far a r e of limited significance:
the recommendations adopted chiefly involve
machines and equipment whose production has
already been divided among the countries.
Therefore, their role is not so much to narrow
the variety of production in separate countries
as to prevent its expansion.
International specialization of production
turned out to be a much more complex matter
than had been expected. According to calculations by the countries themselves, the share of
specialization within the Comecon framework
in the total volume of machinery and equipment
production in separate countries is from 2 to
6% (according to the data of the Ministry for
Heavy Industry of Poland, the share of internationally specialized production in Poland in
1964 will be equal to about 6% of all completed
output). It is important to stress, however, that
the vast collective effort to study the assortment
and technical level of the machines and equipment manufactured in the various countries, to
establish standard series for specialization
with respect to homogeneous equipment, to elaborate criteria for the economic expediency of
specialization, etc., has not been fruitless. A
good foundation has been prepared for obtaining
a radical advance in international specialization
and cooperation in production. The membercountries now have a much better idea of what
would be most rational, as far as internal conditions and international needs are concerned,
with respect to specialization in national machine building, as well as of the basic features
of the general scheme of international specialization and cooperation in machine building
within the Comecon framework.
The socialist countries are profiting greatly
from their scientific and technical cooperation,
something which recent developments have made
especially important. At the beginning scientific
and technical cooperation was mainly bilateral,
the more advanced socialist countries freely
sharing their experience and accomplishments
with the socialist countries engaged in developing their industry. Its role at this stage w a s
rapidly to disseminate and introduce the achievements of technical progress and engineering and
designing theory throughout the socialist community. There is now the additional task of
coordinating the efforts of the countries to elaborate the most important problems facing science and technology, to solve these problems
more rapidly and at a lower cost. This expands
cooperation and requires its organization on a
multilateral basis. A session of the Comecon
Executive Committee in February 1964 adopted
a combined plan for coordination of the most
important scientific and technical research of
common interest to the member-countries in
1964-1965. The number of themes studied
jointly is still small. But all the conditions
exist for having the future plans of joint research encompass a greater number of the more
important problems.
The establishment of a Permanent Committee
and an Institute of Standards for Comecon initiated an exceptionally important and promising
effort the unification of standards for the
socialist countries. Success in this undertaking
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will be of great significance in developing a
rational system of international specialization
and cooperation in production.
For a number of years the Comecon bodies
have been doing careful methodological work on
comparing the most important economic indices
of the member-countries (national income, gross
industrial and agricultural production, capital
investment, and costs of production). They have
been seeking to obtain uniformity in the main
statistical and accounting indices and to find
methods for comparing the economic effectiveness of capital investments. The successful coordination of plans, specialization and cooperation i n production and really extensive and
planned international cooperation are impossible
without such preparatory work.
Such a r e the essential features of the progress
made by the Comecon countries in economic consolidation. But the results a r e not great when
compared with the opportunities that exist to intensify the international socialist division of
labor and develop planned economic cooperation.
2. The Difficulties and Immediate Tasks
in Develooine: CooDeration
Complex problems and contradictions arise in
the process of shaping the international socialist
division of labor. The Marxist-Leninist parties
and governments of the member-countries a r e
working hard to find solutions for them. These
difficulties stem from objective laws that govern
the growth of the new world social system. But
they a r e also caused by subjective factors that
a r e directly related to the ability of the socialist
states to base their policies on objective conditions and economic trends.
The world socialist economy is being shaped
under the influence of two interrelated and progressive trends: first, the rapid, all-round development of each socialist country and the consolidation of its national economy, statehood,
and sovereignty; second, the increasing rapprochement between the socialist countries,
their cooperation in production, and their enriching exchange of experience in socialist construction.
The Marxist-Leninist theory teaches us that
only the flowering of national forms of political
and economic life opens the way to a voluntary
rapprochement between nations. This dialectics of development is also evident in the international socialist division of labor, the successful realization of which depends on the economic
integrity of each socialist state and the development in it of a rational complex of complementary branches that permits the most effective
and complete use of favorable economic conditions. International specialization of production
and a complex, diversified economy in each socialist country (if properly achieved) do not
contradict each other; on the contrary, they
merge harmoniously. But overestimation of one
aspect of this dual process and underestimation
of the other will seriously impede the development of cooperation among the socialist countries and interfere with the successful use of
the advantages of socialism as a world system.
The system of planned division of labor being
created by the socialist countries will speed up
and facilitate their economic progress. But
this system (even if w e exclude its possible
shortcomings) will not, of course, solve all the
complex internal economic problems of each
socialist country. The Comecon countries a r e
doing everything they can to mobilize all their
own reserves for increasing production and reducing its cost, the more so since they still have
substantial possibilities in this area. At the
same time, they are making every effort to
utilize the advantages of the international socialist division of labor.
It is now clear that the actual possibilities for
the development of international specialization
and cooperation in production cannot be the same
at every stage of socialist construction and that
they depend on many factors (the economic level
of the countries, the state of their economic
planning, the numbers and training of their personnel, etc.). Experience has shown that the
socialist countries have different possibilities
for participating in various forms of cooperation
and coordinated planning. Therefore, it is important to take these objective conditions into
account and not to force specialization where
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the prerequisites for it do not exist. Otherwise,
complications will arise that can be avoided if
cooperation is on a strictly voluntary basis,
consideration is given to the needs and interests
of each participant, and mutually acceptable
forms of cooperation a r e patiently sought.
The economic cooperation of the socialist
countries is now developing both through bilateral channels and on a multilateral basis
through Comecon. Multilateral cooperation and
the multilateral coordination of national economic plans will grow steadily, and this is in
complete accord with the trend, indicated by
Lenin, toward a single world socialist economy,
collectively managed in accordance with a common plan. The fact that the future belongs to
multilateral cooperation does not mean, however,
that there are no prospects at present for bilateral economic relations. On the contrary,
life indicates that they have by no means exhausted their possibilities and that they can
make up for some of the shortcomings inpresentday multilateral cooperation.
Many of the Comecon countries have, by
agreements with each other, formed bilateral commissions (or committees) for economic, scientific and technical cooperation. The duties of
the committees include the organization of cooperation in production and joint management
of certain spheres of activity, the coordination
of plans for capital construction, production and
trade turnover, the organization of joint study
of scientific and technical problems, and the
exchange of experience and achievements in
science and technology. The Soviet Union has
concluded agreements on bilateral cooperation
and the establishment of corresponding committees with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. Certain major national economic problems a r e being solved within the framework of
bilateral cooperation. Hungary, for instance, is
develoging the production of alumina that will
be processed at Soviet plants on the condition
that the aluminum will be shipped to Hungary.
Poland and Czechoslovakia are bilaterally organizing the joint manufacture of tractors.
While strengthening their economic relations
along bilateral lines, the Comecon countries do
not set them up in opposition to the multilateral
cooperation within the framework of Comecon.
On the contrary, their aim i s to facilitate the
further development of the organization. It is
not always possible to introduce wide-scale
cooperation at once; sometimes it is best to
tackle individual aspects of big tasks. Third
countries may join in an effective type of bilateral cooperation, thus gradually expanding
this cooperation until it becomes a Comecon
activity. Therefore, what we must do is find
correct ways of combining various forms of
cooperation, using the bilateral forms when
they w i l l ensure more flexible and effective
specialization, but not forgetting the tasks and
opportunities for coordinating plans on a wider
scale, within the overall Comecon framework.
Comecon's central task at present i s that of
coordinating the national economic plans for
1966-1970. A conference of the leaders of the
member-countries, held in the summer of 1963,
stressed the exceptional importance of performing this important work well and promptly. For
the present, this work primarily involves the
bilateral coordination of draft plans of economic
development and exchanges of basic raw materials and equipment. But the chief result of all
the work will depend on the multilateral coordination of draft plans. The member-countries
pin great hopes on the coordination of the next
five-year plans. When it is done, past shortcomings must be taken into consideration and
more complete planning should be introduced
into international economic cooperation. Naturally, since the scales of economic activity
and interrelations of the member-countries
have grown incomparably, the tasks facing the
coordinating bodies have become much more
difficult to solve.
The productive forces of the socialist states
have grown to such an extent that rapid progress
demands that a number of the countries abandon
old forms and methods of planning and economic
management and switch over to new, more effective ones. The elaboration and coordination
of plans for 1966-1970 coincide with the introduction of a new system of planning and economic
management in the GDR, with substantial changes
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in the planning of industrial and agricultural
production in Poland, and with refinement of the
theory of planned economic development in
Czechoslovakia. Although these measures involve certain expenditures and may delay the
coordination of plans, they will ultimately contribute to its success.
Comecon’s multilateral coordination is based
on the projections drawn up by the national planning agencies. Coordination of plans must in no
way replace national economic planning; it does
not release the national planning and economic
bodies from the responsibility for correct economic guidance that meets the needs of their
countries. The more sound the national plans,
the better they meet the demands of the economic laws of socialism, and the better they
mobilize internal resources and the advantages
of the world socialist system, the more successful and reliable will be the coordination of economic plans within the framework of Comecon.
Having determined to improve the entire system
of coordinating plans, the member-countries
a r e summing up and analyzing the collective
experience of economic planning and are clearing the way for all that is new and progressive
in socialist economic management.
International socialist division of labor creates a vitally important economic interdependence between the participating countries. The
economic progress of each socialist country is
now increasingly dependent on the establishment
of correct economic relations with the fraternal
countries. Weakness in a single link of the
chain of interdependence inevitably causes
breaks in other links, If the coordination of
national economic plans is seen in this light, we
must acknowledge that it has not yet secured
sufficiently stable relations between the countries. Consequently, the coordination of plans
must be improved, agreements must be
strengthened, and the countries must adopt a
more responsible attitude toward fulfilling their
obligations for international cooperation in production.
The role of the economic levers and stimulants in the advancement of international cooperation in production must be enhanced so as to
achieve effective coordination of the membercountries’ plans for 1966-1970. The political
and ideological prerequisites for the development of economic cooperation among the socialist countries are not sufficient, for all their
significance, to ensure a suitable scale of cooperation. All the participating countries must
be materially interested in cooperation. Specialization and cooperation must make a place
for themselves in life on the basis of their real
material advantages. N. S. Khrushchev referred
to this aspect in his article “Urgent Problems
in the Development of the World Socialist System” [Nasushchnye voprosy razvitiia mirovoi
sotsialisticheskoi sistemy] : “We must create
conditions under which the economic needs, the
economic profit and interests of each socialist
country will serve to stimulate the international
socialist division of labor and to bring the
national economies closer together.”
The Comecon countries a r e now better prepared to strengthen and develop the principles
of socialist cost accounting in their interrelationships. We understand this as involving: the
distribution of economic benefits accruing to the
socialist system from more intensive international cooperation in production in proportion
to the countries’ outlays for economic development, that is, so as to exclude the unilateral
interest of any one country; the establishment
of conditions for a strictly equivalent exchange
of goods among the socialist countries, with
consideration of the quality of the goods exchanged; the creation of conditions under which
the countries can make preferential purchases
of the highest-quality goods and refuse lowgrade goods; the creation of supplementary
material stimuli for those who develop their
output and exports of goods that a r e in short
supply in the socialist camp, as well as of goods
that a r e of especially high quality and technical
level; the establishment of material responsibility for failure to fulfill obligations assumed
under agreements.
The socialist countries have all that is needed
to place economic cooperation on the stable
basis of coordinated long-term plans and cost
accounting. All that remains is to solve urgent
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problems as they arise and to improve the methods and forms of cooperation.
Cooperation in production among the Comecon
countries does not at all mean the creation of a
closed international economic organization that
is inaccessible to other countries. The membercountries have clearly expressed their views on
this time and again. They would welcome the
participation of all socialist countries in the
activity of Comecon, in the joint effort to develop national economies on the basis of international cooperation in production. The scope
and success of this great and useful undertaking
depend, of course, not only on the membercountries, but on the willingness of other socialist countries to take part in it. We have recently
seen that Yugoslavia and Cuba a r e interested in
the work of some of the committees, and they
may cooperate with the organization on this
Comecon seeks to extend the economic cooperation of its members with all states that wish
to cooperate. There are many striking examples
of the successful development of such cooperation both with socialist countries that are not
members of Comecon and with capitalist countries and the young national states of Asia,
Africa, and Latin America. On the basis of an
agreement with the USSR which guarantees sales
of large quantities of Cuban sugar (5 million
tons by 1970) at stable prices, Cuba has instituted a large-scale program for developing this
branch of its economy.
The Comecon countries proceed from the
premise that the development and consolidation
of intensive economic relations between states
and, above all, of international trade, are im-
portant factors for economic and social progress
throughout the world and for strengthening the
peaceful coexistence of states with different
social systems. They attach special significance
to rendering assistance in the national revival
of the developing states, in the advancement of
their economies and cultures, and to fighting the
various restrictions and discrimination in world
It is significant that the trade turnover among
member-countries rose by 114% between 1955
and 1962, while their trade with the nonsocialist
countries increased by 121% including a 191%
growth in trade with the developing countries.
These figures are the best evidence that the
cooperation between the socialist states within
Comecon, rather than being an obstacle to the
expansion of their trade with all countries of
the world, promotes it.
By uniting more closely and moving, step by
step, to higher levels of planning their national
economies, the Comecon countries translate
into life the policy that was collectively worked
out in the Declaration and the Statement for
strengthening to the utmost the world socialist
system, enhancing its economic might, strengthening its defenses, and increasing its influence
on the course of historical development in the
interests of peace, democracy, and socialism.
Their constant concern and unceasing struggle
for the development of the socialist productive
forces also represents the implementation of
Lenin’s precept that the countries where socialism has triumphed will be able to influence the
world revolution chiefly by their successes in
economic construction.
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