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During 1956-1960 all artels (cooperative enterprises) were nationalized in USSR. It was a large amount of artels.

How easy was it to organize an artel before that, in the post-war period of 1945-1956?

What was the amount of paperwork? What were the typical constraints?

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Well, the accounts claim one could get all necessary papers for an artel in just one day. The management of the artel should be elected by the employees. By the 1941 enactment the new artel was for two years exempt from most taxes and state price control, except that the prices should not exceed the state prices more than 10-13%. Artels were allowed to buy raw materials by fixed prices.

Overall by the beginning of 1950s there were 114000 artels with about 2 million employees. They made up to 6% of GDP, including 40% of all furniture, 70% of metallic tableware, more than a third of knitted wear and hosiery, nearly all toys.

Artels owned about a hundred of R&D bureaus, 22 testing labs and two research institutes.

Artels pioneered production of the Soviet lamp-based radio receivers and CRT televisions.

During the war artels produced weapons and ammunition such as Sudayev machineguns and artillery shells.

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Hmm. I don't suppose you could provide links for some of those GDP numbers? I believe you, but I'm really curious how they came up with them. I'd think good GDP numbers would be very difficult to come by for Communist "managed" economies, as the market value of most goods, services, and labor isn't really known. – T.E.D. Oct 4 '12 at 14:17
@T.E.D. I think it is much easier to count GDP in planned economies than in market ones. Of course in the result one comes to different numbers though. One of the methods to count GDP is by summing up the wages. Another method is to count the surplus value. – Anixx Oct 4 '12 at 15:09
The problem is, in a planned economy, the government can decree that an apple is worth 5 blooples, even though there are only 2,000 apples handed out first-come-first-served, and they subsequently go for 1,000 blooples each on the black market. They can then say by fiat that a bloople exchanges for a dollar, even though you need 1,000 of them to buy a freaking apple. So are those 2,0000 apples worth $10,000 towards the GDP, or $2,000,000, or perhaps only what 2,000 apples would be worth in the USA? – T.E.D. Oct 4 '12 at 16:12
@T.E.D. For GDP it does not matter how much the production costs "on the black market". What means is for what it was sold actually, what was the self-cost or what the wages were paid (depending on the three methods of finding GDP). The same goes for capitalist economy: production of drugs or weapons by a legal enterprise that may cost enormous money on the black market is accounted for only by its legal selling price. Otherwise you should account for enormous price of say nuclear weapons in the black matrket :-) – Anixx Oct 4 '12 at 17:44
Ah, but if that's the case, couldn't some guy in the central planning office artificially spike "GDP" just by arbitrarily deciding to set the pice of a widely produced good differently? For example, he could decide wheat is way too expensive for people, and drop the official price by half. Assuming this country grows its own wheat, that would amount to a huge drop in the GDP, even though the same amount of wheat might be produced that year. If the change in "GDP" isn't telling me anything about a change in the productive output of the society that year, its a completely useless number. – T.E.D. Oct 4 '12 at 18:04

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