ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Agricultural Reform in the Soviet Union-Obstacles to Effective Reform at Local Levels

The obstacles to reform of Soviet agriculture have nothing to do with ideological disagreements over the direction of policy. The character of certain systemic factors which serve as obstacles are particularly acute at local levels. The degree of success at local levels will dictate (or at least significantly influence) whether many of the current Soviet reforms will succeed or fail Some of the obstacles are difficulties of establishing and maintaining authoritative integrity, the persistence of a counter-productive organisational culture, levels of education and professionalisation of managers and local officials, and the complexity of intra-agency change THE current reform campaign of perestroika, or restructuring, provides observers of Soviet development with an opportunity to examine some long held precepts as to the capacity for the Soviet state to undergo adaptive change. The post Brezhnev reform-oriented leadership led by Gorbachev has consistently surprised western observers with its dedication to fast-paced reform in the first two years of Gorbachev's tenure.1 In one central committee plenum after another new directions in economic, social and political policy have been announced that seemed impossi- bc only five years earlier Parestroika has spawned many questions in western scholar ship; the most common one queries Gorbachev's chances of success. In evaluating possibilities of success or failure, much analysis and commentary is directed toward discerning what opposition exists at top levels and what potential it has for stemming or perhaps completely thwarting reform efforts.2 Equally problematic for the successful implementation of reforms are their acceptance on the local level. Not only are local levels responsible for implementation of reforms in any case, but in this particular one a large part of the reforms involve some devolution of decision-making authority and accountability to raion (district) and enterprise officials. Thus examinaiion of the prospects for reform at the local levels gives some indication of what the overall prospects are A variety of factors account for possibilities of successful reform at the local level. Such factors are' systemic in character and constitute the Context within which reform attempts must operate. This essay will examine four systemic factors: issues of institutional integrity, organisational culture, conflicts between reform laws passed at the centre and existing organisational regulations of both enterprises and branch (ministerial) agencies, and education levels and professionalisation of party and state officials. It will examine these factors in the context of the agricultural reforms that were one of the first salvos of perestroika, which in fact predated the ascension of Gorbachev to some degree.

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